More performances needed of Beethoven Triple Concerto op. 56 - 1803

February 23, 2005 at 07:35 AM · Beethoven wrote at least eight trios for Violin, Piano, and Orchestra, of which the Archduke Trio opus 97, is probably the bewt known and most frequently performed. This trio form was used by Franz Joseph Haydn at least five times, including one with the popular Gypsy Rondo. Franz Schubert near the end of his life composed two well regarded trios for violin, piano, and cello Opus 99 and 100 along with his Trout Quintet 1819 for violin, piano, viola, cella, and double bass, and his all-string Quintet in C Op. 163, in which a second cello is added to the usual Quartet ensemble.

I would think chamber music players would enjoy adding an orchestra to their intimate dialogue - but I suppose money and practice time and schedules make complications.

Has anyone recollections of performing the Beethoven triple concerto or listening to it, and what may have been the problems from your perspective? This is one Beethoven work that never seems to get over-exposed. The Kreutzer violin-piano sonata is another challenging work I like to hear in as many different performances as possible. Does anyone have favorite recordings of the Kreutzer?

The Beethoven "triple" concerto for Violin, Piano, and Violoncello opus 56, was completed 1803 just before the period of his maximum fame. It was performed in 1970s by David Oistrakh, with pianist Richter and cellist Rostropovich. Yo-Yo Ma has performed it also, but performances are much less frequent than most of Beethoven's piano concertos and the violin concerto Opus 61.

Replies (10)

February 23, 2005 at 01:57 PM · I saw Pinchas Zukerman play it with the TSO (and a cellist and pianist whose names I have forgotten). I enjoy the DG recording with Anne-Sophie Mutter, Yo-Yo Ma and Mark Zeltser, conducted by Karajan. It is a beautiful sinfonia concertante, with a particularly nice second movement.

February 23, 2005 at 02:17 PM · Hi,

The answer to why it is not performed more often is simple. First, you need three good musicians to play the piece, or a chamber group that is willing. But usually, you need three great soloists to play this well. And, three soloists is expensive, and that is why many orchestras simply cannot afford to program it. Plus, orchestras need to sell concert tickets, and I am not sure that this is at the top of their list of works for that.


February 23, 2005 at 03:00 PM · I like the piece, and the Stern/Rose/Istomin version is excellent. I think that another reason it is not often performed is that critics over the years have considered it not up to Beethoven standards, particularly the piano part which was composed for one of Beethoven's patrons to play and is supposedly not very difficult.

February 23, 2005 at 04:38 PM · Agree about Stern / Rose / Istomin, but also good is Oistrakh / Knushevitzky / Oborin (with Sargent).

February 23, 2005 at 07:58 PM · we had this discussion a while back, basically its harder to get three good soloists, and the piece is not generally considered to be on the level of his greater works, despite being a lovely piece. i think thats stupid personally, its a great chance to get soloists together. brahms double is teh same kind of deal.

February 23, 2005 at 08:21 PM · I definitely consider it up to the standard of Beethoven's other concerti, or at least of his piano concerti (I don't want to say anything too blasphemous on

If the piano part is easier than say, the Emperor Concerto, it is probably a result of the chamber character if the piece, more akin to a piano trio than a solo concerto in virtuosity. I think the real reason for its low reputation is the unusual dominance of the cello part, which is very difficult. And the cello doesn't penetrate the orchestral texture as well as the other instruments, especially at its higher registers. I tend to think of this piece as Beethoven's "cello concerto".

I guess I just got lucky last year, since the TSO programmed both the Beethoven Triple and the Brahms Double in the space of a few weeks.

February 24, 2005 at 12:07 AM · I am interested in several comments here about performers - Stern-Rose-Istomin - Anne-Sophie Mutter - Oistrakh, Pinchas Zukerman -

and the comment about the prominence of the cello part. Perhaps for recording thw position of the instruments should be changed. There has been a lot of discussion of how recording studios produce aritificial effects, in relation to violins and many other instruments. Do people have thoughts about recording techniques, including modernization of older recordings?

February 24, 2005 at 09:12 PM · One of the problems is apparently the logistics of getting 3 soloists (and their appointment books) together. The two solutions to this, I guess, are (a) use local talent who all live in the same town, or (b) hire an established piano trio - I know that the Beaux Arts, Eroica, and Fontenay trios have all recorded it...

The other thing, apparently, is that the patron he wrote it for was not a very good pianist, so the piano part is easy; HOWEVER, Beethoven had an incredible cellist to write for, so the cello part is one of their most difficult. I haven't heard anything much about whether the violin part is especially whatever.

I keep reading about what a "mediocre" piece it is and just don't get it. I think it's wonderful. Maybe people think they have to Experience The Profundity Of It All in order to call it a good piece. I dunno. Whatever.

February 24, 2005 at 10:02 PM · its not mediocore at all, people have just gotten it into their heads that it isnt one of his great pieces. people, however, can be quite stupid at times

February 25, 2005 at 05:56 PM · Oh, I forgot: there's a Zukerman/Ralph Kirshbaum/John Browning recording (on Teldec???) that also has the Brahms Double. It's beautiful but I don't know if it's still in print.

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