Listening to Beethoven #131 – String Trio in D major Op.9/2

string-trio-op92

The wreath maker, by Georg Friedrich Kersting (1815)

String Trio in D major Op.9/2 (1798, Beethoven aged 27)

Dedication Count Johann Georg von Browne
Duration 22′

1. Allegretto
2. Andante quasi allegretto
3. Menuetto: Allegro
4. Rondo: Allegro

Listen

Background and Critical Reception

This second trio of Beethoven’s Op.9 set is in D major – the same key as the Piano Sonata Op.10/3, on which the composer was working at the same time. Stephen Daw, in his booklet notes for the Leopold String Trio’s recording on Hyperion, notes similarities between the two works – not least the scale of their technical challenges. ‘The solo part is in fact frighteningly difficult’, he writes of Beethoven’s violin writing. ‘We are led to contemplate whether the composer (who was certainly, in Op.10, still composing music to play himself) was aware of all the problems he was presenting to his violinist’.

Daniel Heartz spots a couple of pointers towards the Symphony no.2 of four years later – also to be in D major – and is relatively critical of the fourth movement Rondo, highlighting the ‘none-too-promising’ melody begun by the cello…too sectionalized into little segments to be of much interest’.

Thoughts

The start of this piece has an appealing warmth and is deceptively laid back – soon, Beethoven is bringing more energy to the table. The scoring for string trio is once again effortless, a form where the composer feels happy.

For the slow movement we move to the minor key, but the mood remains quite upbeat, the music still quite lively at a walking pace. The Minuet is bright and breezy, given in a quick triple time, the first violin with some technically tricky melodies to play. The final movement is quite stop start, led off quickly by the cello with a melody that becomes its relatively catchy calling card.

This trio is an attractive piece, if not quite as memorable as the first in the set, and with fewer contrasts between the movements. Beethoven’s mastery of writing for stringed instruments, however, gains an even firmer foothold.

Recordings used and Spotify links

L’Archibudelli (Vera Beths (violin), Juergen Kussmaul (viola), Anner Bylsma (cello)
The Grumiaux Trio (Arthur Grumiaux (violin), Georges Janzer (viola), Eva Czako (cello) (Philips)
Anne-Sophie Mutter, Bruno Giuranna and Mstislav Rostropovich (Deutsche Grammophon)
Leopold String Trio Isabelle Van Keulen (violin), Lawrence Power (viola), Kate Gould (cello) (Hyperion)
Trio Zimmermann (Christian Tetzlaff (violin), Antoine Tamestit (viola), Christian Poltéra (cello) (BIS)

The Leopold and Zimmermann trios offer very strong digital versions, while L’Archibudelli bring an attractively grainy tone to their version. Arthur Grumiaux leads his trio with a singing tone, especially in the second movement.

You can listen to the versions from L’Archibudelli, the Grumiaux Trio, the Mutter-Giuranna-Rostropovich trio and Trio Zimmermann on this playlist:

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 1798 Eybler Clarinet Concerto in B flat major

Next up String Trio in C minor Op.9/3

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