Ludwig van Beethoven

Concerto for piano, violin, cello & orchestra in C major ("Triple Concerto"), Op. 56

    Description by James Reel

    Beethoven's "Triple" Concerto is often treated as the less brilliant sibling of the more imposing works composed around the same time: Fidelio, the Fourth Piano Concerto, the Violin Concerto, and the Fourth Symphony. It is important to note that this work was written with an amateur pianist in mind: the relatively simple piano part was designed for Beethoven's patron, the Archduke Rudolf; nevertheless, professional musicians are required for the brutal cello part and the less difficult -- but still quite challenging -- violin part. The work was not premiered until 1808, failed to go over well, and has received limited attention ever since. The themes do tend to wander, their development is rather haphazard, and there are no showy cadenzas; in the work's favor, the subtle effects for the soloists and their imaginative interplay with the orchestra must be noted. The concerto follows all the expected patterns. The first movement, Allegro, is in sonata form, with the principal themes laid out by the orchestra before the soloists put in an appearance. The first theme is optimistic, elegant, mildly striving, but completely unpretentious: almost a German walking tune. The two string soloists come in with their version of the first theme, which is soon taken up by the piano with the strings playing a subsidiary role. The soloists develop this material sometimes individually, sometimes the strings alternating with the piano, and sometimes in conjunction with various components of the orchestra. In general, though, only one soloist takes the spotlight at a time, if only for a few bars. This polite turn-taking stretches the movement beyond the point its thematic material merits, the inventive dialogue among the instruments almost compensating for the thin content. The second movement, Largo, is far more compact. Written in A flat major, this movement is highly cantabile and poetic, with the cello first singing out the theme at some length. The piano offers some atmospheric support, while the two string soloists handle most of the lingering, effusive lyricism. Clouds pass over during a minor mode episode imposed by the orchestra near the end, but the soloists modulate back to the major for a seamless transition into the finale, a Rondo alla Polacca. The "Polish" designation has to do with the rhythm rather than any appropriations of folk tunes. The movement begins sweetly enough, though with some tough turns for the string players. Spirits rise through the remainder of the rondo, with a light but distinctly pulsing rhythm (there is nevertheless an obvious polonaise right in the middle of it all) and several instances of rapid passagework for the string soloists. The trio rushes through a penultimate breakneck episode, but slows down for its last, dance-like section while the orchestra keeps trying to cut in with a big, affirmative conclusion.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Allegro
    2. Largo
    3. Rondo alla Polacca

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2018 Naïve V 5418
    2017 Ondine ODE 12972
    2017 Gramola 99101
    2016 Capriccio Records C 7210
    2016 Doremi Records DHR 8047
    2016 Naxos 8578328-29
    2016 Warner Classics 557828
    2015 Berlin Classics 0300597BC
    2015 Sony Classical 88883763622
    2015 Warner Classics 552420
    2015 Warner Classics 552420
    2014 Decca
    2014 Decca B002050302
    2014 Praga PRDDSD 350082
    2014 Deutsche Grammophon
    2013 Brilliant Classics 94630
    2013 Hi-Q Records HIQXRCD 6
    2013 Challenge Classics CC 72579
    2013 Naxos 8501204
    2012 Entertainment Group 12901
    2012 Bridge 9395
    2012 Warner Classics
    2012 Harmonia Mundi HMG 502131
    2012 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099967870
    2012 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099995597
    2012 Berlin Classics 0300331BC
    2012 Melodiya MELCD 1001937
    2012 Warner Classics
    2012 Sony Classical 88725471762
    2012 Concerto / Zebralution
    2011 Deutsche Grammophon 002894779464
    2011 Deutsche Grammophon
    2011 Deutsche Grammophon
    2011 Deutsche Grammophon 4779830
    2011 Deutsche Grammophon
    2011 Deutsche Grammophon 4779797
    2011 Brilliant Classics 94052
    2011 Chandos CHAN 10695 4
    2011 Royal Philharmonic Masterworks / RPO RPM 28700
    2011 Warner Classics 63779
    2011 EMI Classics
    2011 Doron Music DRC3032
    2011 Urania 121107
    2011 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099909403
    2010 Brainy Baby 75032
    2010 Claves 501001
    2010 EMI Classics
    2010 Chandos 10564
    2010 Membran 233081
    2010 Tahra 704707
    2010 Teldec 256468103
    2009 Bayview / Baby IQ 151929
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 BBC Legends / BBC Music 42522
    2008 Landscape Classics / Zebralution
    2008 Blue Saphir 1047
    2008 Satirino 73
    2008 Deutsche Grammophon 001051902
    2008 Satirino 74
    2008 EMI Classics 8266542
    2008 Doremi Records DHR7716
    2008 Deutsche Grammophon / Digital / Universal Music
    2008 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099921471
    2008 Warner Classics
    2008 EMI Classics 16091
    2008 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099921741
    2008 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099951203
    2007 TDK DVWW-COMARG
    2007 Cascade Records 2200
    2007 Brilliant Classics 93525
    2007 EMI Classics
    2007 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099950092
    2007 EMI Classics
    2007 Sony Music Distribution 5185082
    2007 EMI Classics 3777672
    2007 EMI Classics 87739
    2007 EMI Classics
    2007 Opus KURA 2065
    2007 Apex
    2007 Universal Classics & Jazz
    2007 Classic Mania 93320
    2007 EMI Classics 81487
    2006 LSO Live 598
    2006 Warner Music 63779
    2006 LSO Live 78
    2006 LSO Live LSO 0578
    2006 Arte Nova 640150
    2006 Novalis 150727
    2006 Doremi Records 7874-9
    2005 EMI Classics 76886
    2005 Archipel 0277
    2005 Deutsche Grammophon
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    2005 Archipel 0306
    2004 Naxos Historical 8110878
    2004 Antes / Antes Edition 319202
    2004 Warner Classics 2564 60602-2
    2004 EMI Music Distribution 57773
    2003 EMI Classics
    2003 Angel Records 62655
    2003 Deutsche Grammophon 4745692
    2002 Simax 1183
    2002 Sony Classical 89961
    2002 EMI Music Distribution 67807
    2001 Le Chant du Monde 2781142
    2001 EMI Classics 574657
    2001 EMI Music Distribution 566092
    2000 Harmonia Mundi 1955205
    2000 Arion 68431
    2000 Eroica Classical Recordings / Eroica Distribution 3011
    2000 Arcobaleno 9422
    1999 Intersound 2870
    1999 Intersound 3858
    1999 Harmonia Mundi 1905205
    1999 EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics 7243566954
    1999 Harmonia Mundi 2908036
    1999 History 203190
    1998 Philips 462358
    1998 Naxos 554288
    1998 RCA 902668964
    1998 Doremi Records 7714
    1998 Deutsche Grammophon 457861
    1998 EMI Music Distribution 572294-2
    1997 Deutsche Grammophon 453707
    1997 Arte Nova 74321 43312-2
    1997 EMI Music Distribution 72016
    1997 EMI Music Distribution 66252
    1996 Grammofono 2000 78012
    1996 EMI Music Distribution 69331
    1995 Sony Music Distribution 67193
    1995 Sony Classical 66941
    1995 Carlton 00912
    1995 Capriccio Records 10150
    1995 Philips 438005
    1995 EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics 7243555516
    1995 Teldec 97447
    1995 Deutsche Grammophon 447907
    1995 Sony Music Distribution 64479
    1995 Sony Music Distribution 66248
    1995 EMI Music Distribution 68837
    1994 Philips 4425802
    1993 Sony Music Distribution 46549
    1992 Chandos CHAN6501
    1992 Sony Music Distribution 48397
    1985 Deutsche Grammophon 415276
    Amado Classics 03006
    Cascade Records 2206
    Regis Trio 3
    Denon Records 1407
    Philips Classics 468158
    Sony Music Distribution 46549
    MiClaire
    Pilz 140179
    Brilliant 93525/10
    Harmonia Mundi 905205
    EMI Music Distribution 66219
    EMI Music Distribution 64744
    Teldec
    Philips 420231
    EMI Music Distribution 574722-2
    BMG 77063
    New York Philharmonic NYP2003
    Pearl 9358
    Multisonic 310104
    Multisonic 0104
    A Violin Forever
    Deutsche Grammophon 445700
    Grammofono 2000 78636
    History 2031931