No.2: Trio for Piano, Violin, and Cello in G major
Adagio - Allegro vivace
Largo con espressione
While some members of the nobility kept full orchestras or opera companies on their estates, most were content with (or could afford only) much smaller ensembles. Prince Karl von Lichnowsky was among the latter, maintaining a string quartet to perform in his home. At one of Lichnowsky's weekly soirees Beethoven's three piano trios later published as Opus 1 received their first performance. The Op. 1 Trios were composed in 1794-1795, although Douglas Johnson has shown that the first of the set may have been written in Bonn and then revised in 1793. In May 1795 Beethoven negotiated a contract with Artaria to have the trios published in Vienna and dedicated to Prince Lichnowsky, who secretly subsidized the printing. These were the first works to which Beethoven gave an opus number. Evidently, Beethoven planned to make the trios popular among connoisseurs through performances before publication in order to increase sales. This strategy worked, for advertisements attracted 123 subscribers, who requested 241 scores.
The Trios, Op. 1, reveal Beethoven's complete assimilation of the high-Classic style, as well as his use of the style in a very personal manner. Some critics have noted "symphonic ambitions" in the three trios of Beethoven's Opus 1, citing their uncharacteristic four-movement format. As do many of Haydn's symphonies, the second Trio in G major opens with a slow introduction. An Allegro tempo marks the beginning of the sonata form proper, and soon is heard evidence of Beethoven's early predilection for lengthy transitions. The second theme is on the dominant, and references to the first theme close the exposition. Brief ventures into flat-key areas characterize the development, while the recapitulation begins an octave higher than expected, and Beethoven includes some new transitional material.
In the E major second movement Beethoven employs tonal procedures similar to those he would use in his late works. After the first theme appears in the piano and violin, a modulation ushers in the second theme, played in the piano on the dominant. A second modulation prepares the closing theme, an arpeggiated figure on G major, a third above the tonic. The recapitulation of both the first and second themes is on the tonic; however, an unexpected modulation moves to C major for the closing theme, now a third below the tonic, achieving a kind of tonal balance we find in many of the late quartets and piano sonatas.
The G major scherzo is a lively movement that bears Beethoven's stamp particularly in the use of the same motivic material in both parts of the scherzo section while still producing an easily recognizable formal structure. Harmonically, the trio rocks back and forth between D major and B minor.
One of the most peculiar aspects of the Presto finale is its extended transition, which spends an almost unbearable amount of time on the dominant of the dominant. The development section is a tour de force of motivic manipulation that Beethoven would not surpass until his String Quartet, Op. 18/1. The recapitulation begins surreptitiously as the violin states the opening theme over a piano figure that continues from the development.
(All Music Guide)