Listening to Beethoven #85 – 6 Minuets for string trio

The Grosse Redoutensaal (Grand Ballroom) of the Hofburg Imperial Palace in Vienna by Joseph Schütz

6 Minuets, WoO 9 for two violins and cello (1795, Beethoven aged 24)

no.1 in E flat major
no.2 in G major
no.3 in C major
no.4 in F major
no.5 in D major
no.6 in G major

Dedication not known
Duration 12′

Listen

Background and Critical Reception

Here we have some more of Beethoven’s music for dancing – another set of six minuets that showed the young composer was really getting into the spirit of Vienna’s social culture. With Haydn looking further afield to London, there was definitely room for him to grow – and as we will see, the mid 1790s were Beethoven’s time to provide these social soundtracks.

Beethoven appears to have had small scale dancing in mind with these six dances, originally scoring them for two violins and cello. There is an unnamed version of them for full orchestra too.

Thoughts

Once again these are attractive pieces with easy melodies and amiable rhythms that make them ideal for communal merrymaking. Beethoven continues writing in ‘safe’ major keys, and the dances all last for around two minutes with a slightly contrasting ‘trio’ section in the middle.

This set begins with a stately and genial E flat major minuet, which moves on to a more legato dance in G major.

The third minuet has some more vigorous steps in a style that sounds almost Schubertian in the orchestral version, and it has a lovely central ‘trio’ section with pizzicato from the violins. We move to F major for some regal gliding across the floor, then to D for a jaunty and quite spiky number, a faster minuet.

The sixth minuet channels the spirit of Mozart with its deceptively simple phrases and interplay between instruments.

Recordings used and Spotify links

Lukas Hagen, Alois Posch, Rainer Schmidt


Tristan Segal, Noa Sarid, Isabel Kwon

Philharmonia Hungarica / Hans Ludwig Hirsch

Three attractive versions here, though naturally the ones for string trio sound much more intimate and homely. The orchestral versions have more weight but are nicely scored.

You can chart the Arcana Beethoven playlist as it grows, with one recommended version of each piece we listen to. Catch up here!

 

Also written in 1795 Gyrowetz Three Flute Quartets Op.11

Next up 12 German Dances WoO8

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