A Beethoven a Day: His first published work

A Beethoven a Day: His first published work


norman lebrecht

January 21, 2020

Welcome to the 18th work in the Slipped Disc/Idagio Beethoven Edition

Piano trios, opus 1 (1791-5)

Beethoven laboured long and hard to get these three trios ready for publication. He wrote the first in Bonn when he was just 20 in 1791 and revised it extensively. The second and third followed in Vienna in 1794-5 and all three were premiered and published together.
The first, in E-flat major, owes its trills and thrills to Mozart, who had just passed away, but the length of line and the confidence of expression was pure Beethoven, a swagger sustained in the G major of the second trio. Haydn is said to have taken exception to the third trio, in C minor, though it’s hard to see why. The opening page is so infectious that it sold like hot wurst in the streets of Vienna, giving Beethoven his first real payday and allowing him to continue his vocation without resort to hackwork.
The choice for listeners is threefold – between an established trio like the Beaux Arts, an ad hoc star combo or a bunch of youngsters taking their first steps. Given the earliness of the works and their instant appeal to Viennese amateurs, I’m inclined to the last.
There are many temptations – an early 1950s set by Pablos Casals and pals at his festival hideway in Prades is near irresistible.

And Heifetz, Piatigorsky and Lateiner are on no account to be missed

The Beaux Arts are silky-smooth, sure-footed, a little bland.

Barenboim, Zukerman and DuPre will not disappoint the star-gazers.

I would also throw into the mix Canada’s current Gryphon Trio (Roman Borys, Annalee Patipatanakoon and Jamie Parker), who have to my ears just the right blend of freshness and integration.



  • Pianofortissimo says:

    Itzhak Perlman, Lynn Harrell and Vladimir Ashkenazy – I don’t need another recording of LvB’s op. 1 (alas, I collected several others over the years).

  • fflambeau says:

    “Haydn is said to have taken exception to the third trio, in C minor, though it’s hard to see why. The opening page is so infectious that it sold like hot wurst in the streets of Vienna…”

    Love the wurst comparison; Haydn and Beethoven didn’t get along well (Beethoven has said of Haydn that “he learned nothing from that man”): different temperaments and talents.

    If you listen to Haydn’s “masterpiece” “The Creation” his god sounds likes he’s on qualudes. There’s nothing “Godlike” at all about it. Not at all like Beethoven whose “god” was Handel.

    I enjoyed your comparison of artistic approaches.

    • David K. Nelson says:

      I think it is fairly well documented that Haydn did not take exception to the piece personally; he was attempting to give friendly and maybe even fatherly career advice about an all-important first-published piece based on his hunch about op 1 no. 3 would likely be received by the critics of the day (as too bold and breaking too many “rules” to suit those critics). A case can be made that Haydn hit the nail on the head as regards critical reception of Beethoven’s published works.

      Nor do I think Haydn and Beethoven got along so poorly — there are Beethoven’s own account books that refer to expenditures for chocolates for Haydn and himself after all, and there was also Beethoven’s very public and dramatic expression of affection when the elderly Haydn had to carried out of the hall during a performance of his Creation because in his dotage he was becoming disruptive — but without doubt Beethoven wanted more out of Haydn as a teacher and disciplinarian than Haydn was prepared to dish out, at least at that point in his life. Not uncommon in teacher/pupil relationships, particularly in music.

      • George says:

        Haydn wasn’t carried out because of Beethoven’s display of affection, he was carried out because he was tired and sick. He had heart failure and dysfunctional cerebral arteries, so he would have been exhausted and in a considerable amount of pain.

        • David K. Nelson says:

          Sorry George but you misread my posting. I never said Haydn was carried out because of what Beethoven did. Beethoven did what he did — a touching personal farewell and mark of respect — because Haydn had to be carried out in his chair after shouting about the light coming from on high.

  • Peter Phillips says:

    Plus the Florestan Trio, sadly no longer together.

  • Ed says:

    Haydn Trio, Wien (Medjimorec/Schnitzler/Schulz). I love these recordings.