Historically Informed Performances: "Archduke" and "Ghost" Trios
by John Moran
Ludwig van Beethoven. "Archduke"
and "Ghost" Trios. Jos van Immerseel, fortepiano, Vera Beths, violin,
Anner Bylsma, violoncello. Sony Classical: Vivarte SK 51353, 2000.
In the spring of 1814 Beethoven made his last public appearances as a
pianist, performing in his Piano Trio in Bb Major, op.97, the "Archduke."
He played the Trio on 11 April as the opening of the second half of a
military benefit concert, organized by Ignaz Schuppanzigh, in the hall
of the Hotel zum römischen Kaiser, and then a few weeks
later repeated the piece at one of Schuppanzigh's morning concerts. After
this, Beethoven did not play, except as accompanist, in public again.
By this time Beethoven was completely deaf, and much has been made of
the negative comments of Louis Spohr, who heard a rehearsal for these
performances: "It was not a treat, for, in the first place, the piano
was badly out of tune, which Beethoven minded little, since he did not
hear it; and secondly, on account of his deafness there was scarcely anything
of the virtuosity of the artist which had formerly been so greatly admired.
In forte passages the poor deaf man pounded on the keys till
the strings jangled, and in piano he played so softly that whole
groups of tones were omitted, so that the music was unintelligible unless
one could look into the pianoforte part."