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FastNotes

  • In 1794 Beethoven took his first crack at the esoteric medium of the string trio with his Trio in E-flat, Op. 3, patterned in six movements after Mozart’s great Divertimento in the same key, K. 563.
  • While Beethoven remains largely the classicist in his Op. 3, there are subtle forewarnings of the composer to come, e.g., the richly syncopated opening theme, with its excursions into distant keys and, in the first minuet, some startling, dramatic silences.

Almost from the moment he arrived in Vienna in 1792, 21-year-old pianist-composer Ludwig van Beethoven had access to the aristocratic salons of the imperial capital. That was largely through the influence of Joseph Haydn, his teacher at the time, and Count Ferdinand Waldstein, one of his early patrons, both of whom he had already met in his native Bonn.

Two years later Beethoven took his first crack at the esoteric medium of the string trio with his Trio in E-flat, Op. 3, patterned in six movements after Mozart’s great Divertimento in the same key, K. 563. Which is to say that Beethoven the classicist is still present, rather than the rebel who would show himself in the heated String Trio in C minor, Op. 9, No. 3 written in 1797-98.

The Op. 3 trio is not definitively associated with a commission – Beethoven may have written it on spec, as it were. But it was dedicated to Anna Margarete von Browne, and the composer’s labors were handsomely rewarded by her husband, the Russian diplomat – of Irish extraction – Count Johann Georg von Browne-Camus. The Count himself was the dedicatee of the Op. 9 string trios, for which, again, Beethoven received a considerable sum of money.

While Beethoven remains largely the classicist in his Op. 3, there are subtle forewarnings of the composer to come, e.g., the richly syncopated opening theme, with its excursions into distant keys and, in the first minuet, some startling, dramatic silences. The lush Adagio typifies the young composer at his most lyrically expansive, while the whole delightful confection is topped off by a highly contrapuntal finale, bearing witness to the fact that Beethoven had made a thorough study of Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier.

— Herbert Glass