Friday, November 19, 2021

Beethoven: 3 Trios

No. 371 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages is this week's Friday Blog and Podcast. It can be found in our archives at


Today’s Blog and Podcast is a “crossover” montage, intermingling our Friday series with an ongoing Tuesday Blog share discussed on November 2nd. As we deploy five CDs worth of Beethoven piano trios on our podcasting channel, part four of the set focuses on a pair of trios and a set of variations.

To begin today’s montage, the Piano Trio in B-flat major, Op. 11, is one of a series of early chamber works, many involving woodwind instruments because of their popularity and novelty at the time. The trio is scored for piano, clarinet (replaced here by the violin), and cello (sometimes replaced by bassoon). Beethoven dedicated this piano trio to Countess Maria Wilhelmine von Thun. The work is also sometimes known by the nickname "Gassenhauer Trio". A "Gassenhauer" usually denotes a (normally simple) tune that many people (in the streets, or Gassen) have taken up and sing or whistle for themselves. In the third movement , Beethoven provides nine variations on a theme from the then popular dramma giocoso “L'amor marinaro ossia Il corsaro” by Joseph Weigl. This particular melody, "Pria ch'io l'impegno" ("Before I go to work"), so popular it could be heard in many of Vienna's lanes.

In the same vein, the "Kakadu Variations" is the nickname given to Beethoven's set of variations for piano trio on the theme "Ich bin der Schneider Kakadu" by Wenzel Müller. The work is the last of Beethoven's piano trios to be published. The work is notable for the contrast between its solemn introduction and the lightweight variations that follow.

Beethoven  was known to recycle melodies, and circulated in many editions and arrangements for different forces. To conclude, the Septet in E-flat major, Op. 20 was one of Beethoven's most successful and popular works. The second movement of the Piano Sonata No. 20 shares a melodic theme with the Minuet of the Op. 20 Septet. In about 1803 Beethoven himself arranged the whole septet as a Trio for clarinet (again, replaced her by the violin), cello, and piano, and this version was published as his Op. 38 in 1805.


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