Струнное трио Es-dur, Opus 3

Время создания: 1794-1795 гг.

1. Allegro con brio
2. Andante
3. Menuetto. Allegretto
4. Adagio
5. Menuetto. Moderato
6. Finale. Allegro

Мстислав Ростропович, виолончель
Anne-Sophie Mutter, скрипка
Bruno Giuranna, альт

Although it was Beethoven's first publication of a work in this genre, the Trio, Op. 3, demonstrates that the composer had already mastered writing for this particular instrumental combination, producing a great variety of textures. He would compose only three more such works—the String Trios, Op. 9—before abandoning the genre altogether. In the last three string trios, Beethoven would "Classicize" the medium by four-movement works that follow the format of Haydn's symphonies instead of the more characteristic group of six or seven movements, as we find in the Trio, Op. 3.

The history of the String Trio in E flat is sketchy. Thayer assumed the work was composed in Bonn, as the memoirs of an English music enthusiast, William Gardiner, indicate that the piece came to England from Bonn in manuscript form. However, careful reading of Gardiner's writings and further research has shown that the piece was almost certainly composed in Vienna and probably given to either Elector Max Franz or Count Waldstein while one of them was in Vienna in 1794. Whatever the case may be, Beethoven's final version of the Trio dates from 1795. The piece was published in May, 1796, by Artaria & Co. in Vienna. Evidently, Beethoven began a transcription for piano trio, which was left incomplete. An arrangement for cello and piano by someone other than Beethoven was published in 1807 by Artaria & Co. in Vienna.

Of Beethoven's works for a trio of violin, viola and cello, Opp. 3 and 8 can rightly be called Divertimenti or Serenades, because of the number and combination of movements. By Mozart's time, the term "serenade" was not necessarily associated with a piece played in the evening and directed toward a lover. Serenades were still, however, pieces written for particular occasions and often performed outdoors. In Vienna it became common to compose such works for very small ensembles. Beethoven's Trio in E flat major, Op. 3, follows the pattern of Mozart's great serenades in that two fast movements enclose at least one slow movement mixed with minuets. The forces, however, are reduced and the structure of the work is also much smaller in scale.

The first movement, an Allegro con brio in sonata form, is arguably the most interesting of the entire Trio. A lengthy, adventurous transition modulates to the dominant for a sweeping secondary theme, at which point Beethoven thins the texture to a duet between the violin and cello. After one of Beethoven's most extended development sections of his works before the Op. 18 quartets, the recapitulation resolves all of the secondary material to the tonic. In sonata form with a brief development, the Andante second movement is filled with fascinating interplay among the three instruments, all of which spend nearly equal time presenting the tiny four-note motive that provides the rhythmic and melodic bases of the movement. The first Minuet is brief, while the attendant Trio, in E flat minor, is developmentally expansive. The central Adagio, in A flat major, features imaginative interplay between the instruments as the cello and violin take turns performing accompanimental material. More expansive than the first, the second Minuet contains an agitated Trio in C minor, both halves of which are built around the same motive. The finale, a blazing Rondo in 2/4, contains slightly varied returns of the main theme alternating with episodes that explore distant harmonies and offer contrasting rhythms. More than in the Trio's other movements, the violin comes to the foreground.

(All Music Guide)