Beethoven’s String Trio in E-flat Major, Op. 3: The Apex of a Genre

In November of 1792, the young Ludwig van Beethoven left Bonn, the provincial city of his birth, to resettle in glittering, cosmopolitan Vienna. Two years after this momentous move, Beethoven completed the String Trio in E-flat Major, Op. 3. The piece marked the 24-year-old composer’s first foray into the genre. A successor to the Baroque trio sonata, the string trio (violin, viola, cello) was a popular form in the eighteenth century, when …

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Beethoven’s “Triple Concerto”: Chamber Music on a Grand Scale

Beethoven’s Concerto for Violin, Cello, and Piano in C Major, Op. 56 is a rare musical hybrid. Commonly known as the Triple Concerto, it playfully and exuberantly combines elements of the piano trio with the concerto. With this music, Beethoven achieved a genre-bending feat which was virtually unprecedented at the time, and has not been attempted by any significant composer since. While the sinfonia concertante features a dialogue between individual solo instruments and the …

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Remembering Lars Vogt

Lars Vogt, the renowned German pianist and conductor, passed away on Monday, September 5. He was 51. In March of 2021, Vogt was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer in his throat and liver. Born in the town of Düren in the North Rhine-Westphalia region, Vogt rose to prominence after winning second prize at the 1990 Leeds International Piano Competition. He went on to perform as a soloist with the world’s greatest orchestras. He …

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Beethoven’s “Razumovsky” Cycle: String Quartet No. 9 in C Major, Op. 59, No. 3

In 1805, Count Andreas Razumovsky, the Russian ambassador to Vienna, commissioned Beethoven to write three string quartets. At the time, chamber music was often conceived for the entertainment of aristocratic amateurs. In contrast, Razumovsky’s commission would be premiered by the Schuppanzigh Quartet, a group of highly skilled musicians who formed what was likely the first professional string quartet. The result was groundbreaking music which moved the string quartet decisively into the concert hall. …

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Beethoven’s “Pastoral” Sixth Symphony: A Communion With Nature

Beethoven’s Fifth and Sixth Symphonies were completed in the same year of 1808, and were premiered at the same under-rehearsed, four-hour-long concert. Yet, the two works stand as diametric opposites. The Fifth Symphony takes a dynamic journey towards transcendence. It is filled with ferocious, crackling energy and a sense of heroic struggle. Set in the bucolic key of F major, the quieter Sixth Symphony inhabits the stable, enduring world of nature. Beethoven gave it the subtitle, …

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Beethoven’s “The Ruins of Athens”: Politics and the Triumph of the Muses

In 1811, Beethoven received a commission to compose incidental music for two Hungarian-themed plays by August von Kotzebue, King Stephen and The Ruins of Athens. The plays were written to commemorate the opening of a magnificent new theater in the Hungarian city of Pest on the banks of the Danube (now the eastern part of unified Budapest). The theater’s construction was funded by Franz I, the last Holy Roman Emperor and the first …

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Beethoven’s “Razumovsky” Cycle: String Quartet No. 8 in E Minor, Op. 59, No. 2

The revolutionary nature of Beethoven’s three Op. 59 “Razumovsky” String Quartets is documented in this excerpt from an 1807 review: Three new, very long and difficult Beethoven string quartets…are attracting the attention of all connoisseurs. The conception is profound and the construction excellent, but they are not easily comprehended. Written in 1806, six years after the composer’s initial Op. 18 set, the Op. 59 String Quartets elevated the genre to a cosmic …

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