BEETHOVEN / RIES: Clarinet Trios
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Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
Clarinet Trio in E flat major, Op. 38 (after Septet in E flat major, Op. 20)
Ferdinand Ries (1784-1838)
Clarinet Trio in B flat major, Op. 28
It was not until 1792 that Beethoven finally began to establish himself in Vienna. Born in Bonn, the son of a singer in the musical establishment of the Archbishop-Elector of Cologne, an establishment of which his grandfather had been Kapellmeister, he inevitably followed family tradition as a musician, acquiring skill as a boy both as a keyboard-player and string-player, in addition to growing competence as a composer that had attracted the attention of Haydn. Arriving in Vienna with the encouragement of the Archbishop, a member of the Imperial family, and armed with introductions to members of the nobility, he set about bettering himself by lessons with Haydn, with Athrechtsberger and with Salieri, and earning a living through his skill as a pianist, a skill to which his developing powers as a composer were an important adjunct. In a period of social and political change, Beethoven was to win for himself an exceptional position in Vienna, his increasing eccentricities, accentuated by the onset of deafness at the turn of the century, tolerated even under the restrictive policies of Prince Mettemich, after 1815.
Beethoven's Septet in E flat major, Opus 20, scored for violin, viola, cello, double bass, clarinet, horn and bassoon, was first heard at a private concert given in 1799 in the house of Prince Schwarzenberg. A public performance came on 2nd April 1800 at the Royal Imperial Court Theatre in a benefit concert for the composer. Beethoven offered a programme that included a Mozart symphony, an aria and a duet from Haydn's Creation, and from himself a piano concerto, his Symphony No. 1 in C, an improvisation and the Septet, this last dedicated to Her Majesty the Empress. The Septet soon won extraordinary popularity and appeared in later years in arrangement after arrangement. Beethoven urged his publishers to issue the work quickly, fearing that it might be pirated, and himself brought out, in 1802, a string quintet version, followed in 1803 by the present version for clarinet or violin, cello and piano. This trio version, numbered Opus 38, he dedicated to his doctor, Johann Adam Schmidt, who played the violin and whose daughter played the piano.
The Clarinet Trio, Opus 38, starts its first movement with a slow introduction, leading to a sonata-form Allegro con brio, its first subject followed, after a brief transition, by a gentler second. The first subject forms the basis of a central development, after which there is a recapitulation that includes both themes and an extended coda. The A flat major slow movement, placed second, is in broadly ternary form and is followed by the Tempo di Menuello that uses a melody well enough known from its appearance in the Piano Sonata Opus 49, No.2, framing a trio section. The next movement consists of a B flat major theme, once thought to be a folk-song, and five variations, of which the fourth is in the tonic minor key, marked by triplet accompanying rhythms. There follows a Scherzo and Trio, a clear demonstration of the difference between scherzo and minuet. A brief march, in true divertimento style, opens the last movement, soon replaced by a Presto, the promising opening counterpoint of the first theme of which soon leads to secondary material of rapid triplets. In the usual tripartite form there is a central development, with a cadenza leading to the re-appearance of the thematic material in recapitulation.
Ferdinand Ries was born in Bonn in 1784, the son of Beethoven's teacher Franz Ries, a man who bad been able to offer help after the death of Beethoven's mother in 1787, Franz Ries, himself the son of a court musician, was a pupil of the violinist-impresario Salomon and was able to take the place of his own father as a violinist in the Bonn court orchestra in 1766, at the age of eleven, although only joining the musical establishment as a salaried musician in 1779. After the dissolution of the Elector's court by the French in 1794, he remained in Bonn in very reduced circumstances. Franz, the eldest of his five sons, was taught the violin by his father and studied the cello with Bernhard Romberg. The dissolution of the court in 1794 deprived him of the employment he would have expected and he spent the following years in continued study with his father, a period broken only by attempts to study in Arnsberg in 1797 and a short time in Munich. By his own efforts he was eventually able to make his own way to Vienna, where Beethoven, at the request of his former teacher, was of material help to him, accepting him as a piano pupil and employing him as an assistant. At the same time he arranged lessons for Ries with his own teacher, Athrechtsberger, and was able to secure for him temporary positions with friends among the nobility.
Ries's career was for many years a peripatetic one, bringing him a considerable reputation as a pianist. From 1813 he began a period of eleven years in London, where he married an Englishwoman. In 1824 he returned to Germany to live in Godesberg and then, from 1827, in Frankfurt am Main, where he died in 1838. Ferdinand Ries was a prolific composer, writing a quantity of piano music that includes a number of sets of variations and fantasies on well known melodies, chamber music, songs and orchestral music, as well as four operas. Students of Beethoven are familiar with the biographical notes he left on that composer, together with Franz Gerhard Wegeier, the Biographische Notizen über Ludwig van Beethoven.
Ries's Clarinet Trio, Opus 28, opens in G minor, soon to revert, in the first subject of a sonata-form movement, to the key of B flat major, as clarinet and cello state the theme. The piano is entrusted with the first statement of the second subject, followed in turn by the cello and the clarinet. There is scope for restrained drama in the central development, before the principal theme duly returns in recapitulation. There is a variant of the secondary theme, before the appearance of the final coda. A very straightforward Scherzo frames a Trio that allows the piano series of rhythmic problems in groups of seven or eight notes against the triple pulse of the movement. The piano introduces the F major slow movement with a singing theme, then taken up by the cello. This movement is followed by a final Rondo that allows the clarinet the first statement of the theme, with a cello accompaniment that must recall the last movement of Beethoven's Clarinet Trio, Opus 38. Episodes intervene between recurrences of the principal theme, often providing the piano with the chance for display natural to a virtuoso pianist-composer.
Born in Ludwigshafen, the clarinettist Jürgen Demmler had his musical training at the Heidetherg-Mannheim Hochschule für Musik, Co-founder of the German Saxophone Ensemble and the Baden-Baden Philharmonic Ensemble, he has served as a saxophone-player and clarinettist in a number of major orchestras, He is a member of the Baden-Baden and Freiburg South West German Radio orchestra and has appeared in numerous concerts at home and abroad, in addition to recordings, broadcasts and television appearances,
Markus Tillier was born in Wuppertal and had his training as a cellist at the Karlsruhe Hochschule für Musik under Martin Ostertag, going on to further study at home and abroad with Franco Rossi, William Pleeth, Tanya Reminikova, Janos Starker and others, Formerly a member of the Saarbrücken