Still life by Viennese artist Johann Baptist Drechsler, 1789
Rondo in G major WoO41 for piano and violin (1794, Beethoven aged 23)
Dedication Elenore von Breuning
Background and Critical Reception
Variations and rondos were part of Beethoven’s development as a composer, and this short piece for piano and violin is another example of the composer’s development in the ‘rondo’ form. Traditionally this would involve a main theme (‘A’), a secondary one (‘B’) and a contrasting third section in the middle (‘C’).
Writing in the booklet of the Deutsche Grammophon recording by Wilhelm Kempff and Yehudi Menuhin, Bernhard Uske notes how in writing rondos Beethoven ‘absorbed the pattern of the ‘rondello’ from Italian folk music with its broad appeal into the process of variational development.’
Technically the piece is straightforward, indicating a design for domestic use – and Beethoven thought enough of it to dedicate it to his dear Bonn friend Eleonore von Breuning, along with the Variations on Mozart’s Se Vuol Ballare
The Rondo is easy on the ear. A nice, limpid piano introduction presents the theme, which has a straightforward profile but becomes more memorable with its repetitions in the rondo structure. The violin takes over, and the two instruments are closer together to present the second theme.
The central section (the ‘C’ of the rondo’s A – B – A – C – A – B – A) moves to G minor for a simple triple-time waltz, where a slight shadow falls over the music. It does not last, however, the ‘A’ theme returning to leave us in its warm glow.
Wilhelm Kempff (piano), Yehudi Menuhin (violin) (Deutsche Grammophon)
James Lisney (piano), Paul Barritt (violin) (Woodhouse Editions / Regent)
Paul Barritt and James Lisney present quite a nippy account of the Rondo, nicely dovetailed and brightly voiced. Wilhelm Kempff and Yehudi Menuhin proceed at a much more leisurely pace, taking nearly two minutes longer but playing gracefully and evoking a triple-time dance.
Wilhelm Kempff, Yehudi Menuhin
Also written in 1794 Benjamin Carr The Federal Overture
Next up String Trio in E flat major Op.3