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Trio for Clarinet, Cello and Piano

Archduke Rudolph of Austria - Trio for Pinaoforte, Clarinet and Violoncello

As well as being the dedicatee of a formidable number of Beethoven’s works- including his fourth and fifth piano concertos, his last piano trio, piano sonata and violin sonata, Fidelio and the Missa Solemnis (the latter planned to celebrate his installation as Archibishop of Olmütz) – Rudolph was an accomplished composer; his works include a set of forty Variations on a theme by Beethoven, a fugai variation on a theme by Diabelli which prompted Beethoven to write his most monumental work in variation form, and various other piano pieces; songs; a Sonata for clarinet and piano; and the Trio for piano, clarinet and cello which is recorded here.

The clarinet sonata was written for count Ferdinand Troyer, an amateur clarinettist for whom Schubert was to compose his Octet in 1824, and it may safely be assumed that the Trio was also intended for Troyer. The autograph score (in the Moravian Museum, Brno) consists of three complete movements, an Allegro moderato, a Theme and Variations, and a Scherzo; there are also a few bars of a concluding Rondo.   The first movement is in sonata form, with an ambling, expansive first subject (begun by the clarinet) and a family second subject introduced by the clarinet to a pizzicato accompaniment on the cello. The development, surprisingly, makes no use of this promising material, but is concerned almost exclusively with the music of the closing pages of the exposition with its minor key inflections and its prominent four-note grupetto; this neglect is, however made good in the coda. The scherzo is based on an angular and rather sinister theme in G minor, but the major tonalities of B flat and G exert a strong pull on the music, there is a ländler-like Trio in E flat major, in the style of an accompanied duet for clarinet and cello, and, in conclusion, a rheotorical coda. The theme of the variations, which here constitute, the last movement, is from the Octet, Op.12 for piano, two violins, two cellos, clarinet and two horns, by Prince Louise Ferdinand of Prussia (1772-1806), another gifted royal amateur musician whose piano playing Beethoven rated as superior to Hummel’s. The basic key of the movement is B flat major, but the fourth of the five variations is in a sombre B flat minor; Archduke Rudloph also paid Beethoven – and perhaps Louise Ferdinand as well – a compliment in coring the first of them for piano solo.

Robin Golding

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