April 19, 2020
benaroya hall, seattle

Beethoven’s Archduke Trio


Beethoven’s Trio in E flat, Op. 1 No. 1, Violin Sonata in C Minor, and Trio in B flat op 97, The Archduke.

“”(Whittaker’s) playing was a joy”

— Rod Parke, Seattle Gay News


Rachell Ellen Wong


Nathan Whittaker


Byron Schenkman



Ludwig van Beethoven:

Trio in E-flat Major, op. 1, no. 1

Ludwig van Beethoven:

Sonata in C Minor, op. 30, no. 2

Ludwig van Beethoven:

Trio in B-flat Major, op. 97 “Archduke”

“The ensemble gave the frequent melody exchanges between piano and strings the character of a lively conversation, balancing Schenkman’s bright tones with rich layers of string sound.”

— Dana Wen, Sunbreak


Program Notes

In 1794 a young pianist and aspiring composer named Ludwig van Beethoven published his Opus One: three trios for piano, violin, and cello. With these trios Beethoven established himself as an artist who would consistently go beyond the norms of what even the best composers of his time were doing. Beethoven’s teacher Joseph Haydn and Beethoven’s idol Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart had already expanded the trio from its origins as a simple accompanied keyboard sonata (suitable for amateurs to play at home) into a sophisticated conversation among three instrumentalists. Beethoven took the form out of the drawing room altogether, writing for three instruments with the kind of grandeur others had reserved only for large-scale symphonic works.

Beethoven’s first trio is a joyful work full of good humor and musical jokes but also surprisingly rich harmony and technical challenges in all three parts. Although Beethoven is mainly known as an instrumental composer who wrote relatively little vocal music, his work often seems to be inspired by the human voice. This is especially apparent in the movements marked “cantabile” – in a songlike manner. The three “cantabile” movements on tonight’s program could be heard as prototypes for the expressive character pieces of the 19th century, such as Felix Mendelssohn’s Lieder ohne worte (Songs without words).

Most of Beethoven’s music is quite joyful. Even pieces which start out in a tragic vein usually end in triumph; the famous fifth symphony is just one such example. The violin sonata on tonight’s program is unusual in that it starts and ends in a dark and stormy mood, although even here there are rays of hope along the way.

 Much of Beethoven’s work was dedicated to royal patrons, some of whom became close personal friends of the composer. The three works on tonight’s program were dedicated respectively to the Prince Lichnowsky, Tsar Alexander I of Russia, and Archduke Rudolph of Austria. The youngest child of the Holy Roman Emperor, Archduke Rudolph was a student, patron, and friend of Beethoven’s, and was the dedicatee of several of the composer’s most monumental works, including the so-called “Emperor Concerto” and the Missa Solemnis. The “Archduke Trio” was the last work Beethoven played in public before he gave up performing as a result of his loss of hearing. In spite of the challenges Beethoven was undoubtedly facing this is a work of supreme triumph and joy.


1211 E Denny Way #179 • Seattle, WA 98122
BS&F is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. Tax ID# 81-5182891.
Your donation is tax-deductible.

All Seattle Concerts at
Benaroya Hall, 200 University Street, Seattle

Purchase tickets by phone: