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The Beethoven Project Trio are a Chicago-based ensemble formed in 2008 and comprised of George Lepauw, piano, Sang Mee Lee, violin, and Wendy Warner, cello. Their goal is to explore Beethoven's trios within the context of all the trio works that have come after them. However, they do not confine themselves entirely to Beethoven and have branched out into Brahms, Mozart, and Schubert. For the present historic recording, Mr. Lepauw plays a Fazioli concert grand, model F278; Ms. Lee plays a 1713 Cooper-Hakkert Stradivarius; and Ms. Warner plays a 1772 Giuseppe Gagliano, all on generous loan.
In the program, we get three Beethoven trios, all of them unique in their own way. Things begin with the Trio for Piano, Violin and Cello in E-Flat Major, Hess 47, "an original arrangement by Beethoven himself, from his String Trio Opus 3," 1794. It is a single movement lasting about twelve minutes, lost and forgotten for quite a while and here receiving its world-premiÃ¨re recording. It did not get a printing until 1920, and there is as yet no performance edition available (although the International Beethoven Project is preparing one for publication before the end of 2010). At any rate, the little work is brisk and sprightly and thoroughly delightful, at least in the hands of the Beethoven Project Trio, who play it as though they had been performing it all their lives.
Next comes the Trio for Piano, Violin and Violoncello in D Major, Kinksy/Halm Anhang 3, 1799. It is in two movements, an Allegro and a Rondo, of a little over six minutes each. The work seems a bit more demanding than Hess 47, and the Trio play it with great skill. But in actuality, two pages of the score were missing, reconstructed here by Robert McConnell and recorded in its present overhauled state for the first time. For a time scholars thought that Mozart might have written the piece, and maybe he did, but most authorities today attribute it to Beethoven. Its breezy, infectious Rondo is absolutely charming.
Finally, we have the Trio for Piano, Violin and Violoncello in E-Flat Major, Opus 63, from 1806, apparently a transcription by Beethoven from his own String Quintet Opus 4 of 1795, itself an arrangement of his earlier Wind Octet. Again, there has been some controversy over the years about whether the composer had anything at all to do with it. Present-day scholars, though, generally accept that Beethoven transcribed it himself, and the Beethoven Project Trio gave it its American premiÃ¨re performance on March 1, 2009.
The Trio in E-Flat Major is in four movements and lasts a total of about thirty-four minutes. As in the other works, the Beethoven Project Trio are light and bright and deliver a glowing performance, with the Andante in particular lilting and graceful.
The Cedille audio engineers miked the Trio's three instruments fairly close-up, yet they are not in-your-face close. Recorded in 2009 at the American Academy of Arts and Letters in New York City, the sound is always warm and smooth while still displaying plenty of detail and air. What's more, the acoustic offers a radiant ambient glow that is most realistic and appealing." -John J. Puccio -- Classical Candor - http://classicalcandor.blogspot.com/2010/05/beethoven-piano-trios-cd-review.html
"Where to begin to describe and evaluate this astonishing CD? Who would believe that in 2010 we are having a world premiÃÂ¨re recording of 200+-year-old works by Beethoven? But this is indeed the case for two of these items. And who would think that a late-20th/21st-century concert grand piano would sound so right for them and blend so well with such splendid 18th-century string instruments? This one does!
...The music is generally quite energetic. On the entire CD, there is only one slow movement -- but a lovely one it is-- unless you consider the Menuetto tempo slow, in which case two of the seven qualify. There are several nice melodies, some of which bear a certain familial resemblance to each other. It is all played in a very spirited manner, with marvelous ensemble, by the musicians. Regular readers will know of my preference for early and especially pre- and early Romantic piano works being played on early pianos because of their distinct differences between the upper, middle, and lower registers that modern pianos, especially Steinways, obliterate in their quest for uniformity and power. Hence my initial apprehension about the Fazioli, but I found it quite suitable for these works. While it doesn't have as great a differentiation among the registers as early pianos do, it has more than the standard Steinway, and its pleasing warm resonance, characteristic clarity, and sustained ring more closely resemble the crispness and slow decay of early instruments than most modern pianos.
This ensemble is a new one, formed and organized by Chicago-based French-born pianist Lepauw specifically to present the world premiÃÂ¨re of the first work and the US premiÃÂ¨res of the other two. Both Lee and Warner were born and are based in Chicago, where said premiÃÂ¨re performance took place on 1 March 2009. The recording, produced by Max Wilcox, renowned for his work on Artur Rubenstein's RCA Victor recordings, was made in NYC at the American Academy of Arts and Letters during the following summer. A subsequent performance, the NYC premiÃÂ¨res of the works, was given in Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall on 18 May 2010. The Trio will prolong its existence with an expanded mission "to bring a new vitality to the performance of Beethoven's trios, to shed new light on the piano trio as a musical form by commissioning new works, and to excite and educate audiences in concert halls, schools, and places where great music is not always heard." We wish it much success and find this CD a truly auspicious beginning.
The 32-page booklet opens, after the credits on the inside of the front cover and the track listings and timings on the facing page 3, with a lengthy and informative note by Lepauw entitled "How I Got Involved." This is followed by "The Trios," which gives details about the works and the manuscripts, seemingly also by Lepauw with acknowledged contributions by James F. Green. Next come bios of the ensemble and each of its members. The final six pages describe the International Beethoven Project, list its supporters (with a note from the descendants of two of Beethoven's patrons, Prince and Princess Piotr Galitzine), and lastly provide a way members of the public can also become supporters. There are numerous photos of the ensemble and the associated events, inside as well as on the outside of both covers, including artists renderings, informal, rehearsal, and recording sessions, reproductions of the title page of the Artaria edition of Op. 63, of a painting of Beethoven at age 30 and of a 1902 sculpture by Antoine Bourdelle in a private collection. It is Cedille's customary fine production." -- Classical Voice of North Carolina - Marvin J. Ward
Beethoven chamber music enthusiasts will rejoice in this issue. The Beethoven Project Trio -- George Lepauw, piano; Sang Mee Lee, violin; and Wendy Warner, cello -- gave the world premiere of the recently rediscovered Hess 47 trio along with the two other Beethoven rarities (both American premieres) in March 2009 in Chicago. The recording was made in New York six months later under veteran producer Max Wilcox.
The chance to hear splendid examples of unfamiliar Beethoven, in his most frolicsome classical vein, played with great flair by three of Chicago's finest young musicians makes this a welcome and self-recommending release. -John von Rhein -- Chicago Tribune CD of the Week - July 8, 2010
In 2008, three young Chicago-based musicians -- pianist George Lepauw, violinist Sang Mee Lee and cellist Wendy Warner -- got together to prepare the world premiere of a piano trio by Beethoven. Essentially a rearrangement of the first movement of a string trio in E-flat major, this score had somehow escaped the world's notice. To the program, they added two nearly-unknown piano trios which have been, over the years, mis-attributed to other composers. Given that Beethoven is considered one of the great masters of classical chamber music, expectations are high for this world-premiere recording, made last fall. Unfortunately, while the music is nice, none of it is the great, hefty Beethoven of the late string quartets. It sounds more like something by Haydn, or even Mozart. The musicians themselves do an excellent job, laying out the scores with elegant restraint, an easy virtuosity and impeccable balance. -John Terauds -- The Star.com - June 28, 2010
In March of last year, Chicago was the host of a major event in music; the world premiere performance of a previously-unknown piano trio work by Beethoven, as well as two American premieres of Beethoven piano trios.
Pianist George LePauw first heard of the Op. 63 trio while performing in France, and his skepticism eventually led him to the president of the Beethoven Association France. After meetings with the American Beethoven Society, the Ira F. Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies, and the Library of Congress, LePauw was convinced to establish the Beethoven Project Trio for the sole purpose of performing the American premiere of Beethoven's Piano Trio in E-flat, Op. 63. This work is a transcription, probably by Beethoven, of his String Quintet Op. 4, which is itself an extensive reworking of the Wind Octet Op. 103.
And then things got even more interesting. James F. Green, author of the most up-to-date listing of Beethoven's music, The New Hess Catalog of Beethoven's Works, learned of the planned performance and offered two more works for the program. First, the two-movement, incomplete Piano Trio in D, here with the two missing pages reconstructed by Robert McConnell, in the world premiere of this arrangement. Second, the single movement Piano Trio in E-flat, Hess 47, which is Beethoven's own arrangement based his first String Trio in E-flat, Op. 3; for piano trio he only completed this one movement. This work was only first printed in 1920, and the first performing edition is to be released later this year. This was the world premiere performance of the piece.
After the sold-out concert, Cedille Records offered the trio an opportunity to record these works, and the result is our first CD Pick of the Week to offer the world premiere of a previously-unknown work (one might say arrangement) by Beethoven. The Beethoven Project Trio itself is still thriving.
Now a note about the audio quality, which is superb. The Trio was able to secure the services of the legendary producer Max Wilcox, who has won seventeen Grammy awards over the years and was pianist Arthur Rubinstein's recording producer from 1959 to the pianist's retirement in 1976. Among the other artists he recorded during his years with RCA are the Guarneri Quartet, the Cleveland Quartet, and the Philadelphia Orchestra under Eugene Ormandy. Since becoming an independent producer in 1974, his work has included sessions with the Emerson Quartet, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Dawn Upshaw, the Beaux Arts Trio, and many others.
For this recording, says pianist Lepauw, Wilcox was a colleague in the best possible way; at times "it felt like we were a piano quartet instead of a trio." -- WETA - July 19, 2010
Quite apart from the singularly lovely playing, this disc has much to recommend it -- in fact, it should probably be considered essential to all classical collections. It features not only two rarely-recorded piano trios (the D major and E flat major trios, the latter of which is a transcription of Beethoven's string quintet opus 4), but also the world-premiere recording of his recently discovered Trio in E Flat Major, Hess 47. The playing sparkles, and the sound quality is excellent. -- CD Hotlist, July 2010
This month I had the pleasure of receiving a disc which contains two world premiere recordings of works by Beethoven. It's not often that a new work by that Master comes to light and so my curiousity was piqued, especially since as an amateur cellist I have enjoyed working on several of his piano trios, and both of the "new" works are in that genre. The very thorough liner notes accompanying The Beethoven Project Trio CD (Ãedille CDR 90000 118) explain in detail the pedigree of the pieces and why they have remained unperformed all this time. The Piano Trio in E Flat Major, Hess 47 is Beethoven's own transcription of the first movement of his Opus 3 String Trio of 1794, thought to have been done sometime after 1800. The two-movement Piano Trio in D Major, Kinsky/Hahm Anhang 3 was originally thought to be by Mozart and catalogued by Ludwig Ritter von KÃ¶chel as Anhang 52a and thus has the distinction of being the only work by Beethoven with a KÃ¶chel number. By the 20th century however it had been recognized by scholars as an original piano trio by Beethoven dating from 1799, although its genesis is still unknown. Part of the complication of authenticating the trio is the fact that the existing manuscript is not in Beethoven's hand, but rather in that of his younger brother Kaspar Karl who served as copyist and manager for Ludwig in his early years in Vienna. There are two pages - 33 measures - missing from that manuscript which have been re-constructed by Robert McConnell, who provides the rationale behind his choices in the notes. Undertaken in conjunction with the American Beethoven Society, the Association Beethoven France and the Beethoven-Haus Bonn, The International Beethoven Project musicians are European-trained pianist George Lepauw who is now based in Chicago, and Americans Sang Mee Lee, violin and Wendy Warner, cello. Although the concert of American premieres took place in Chicago, this excellent recording was done at the American Academy of Arts and Letters in New York City last September. The concert (and the CD) also include the American premiere of another little-known Beethoven work, the Piano Trio in E-Flat Major, Op. 63. Although it has since been acknowledged as authentic Beethoven there has been some controversy since its original publication in 1806 (according to the notes, 1807 according to my Grove's Dictionary). It is an arrangement of the String Quintet Op. 4 of 1795, which is itself a re-working of an earlier wind octet written as dinner music for the Bishop of Bonn in 1792 before Beethoven's move to Vienna (published posthumously in 1830). Isn't scholarship wonderful? Suffice it to say that even though none of this is Beethoven at his best, these are welcome additions to the repertoire, immaculately performed and recorded. I look forward to the publication of the performance edition of the scores currently in production by The International Beethoven Project and promised by the end of the year. Now there's a project for my trio to undertake next summer! -- The Whole Note, David Olds
New music from Beethoven! Actually, it's a recently unearthed trio from the master's early period, written in the 1790s. Read morePublished on May 20, 2011 by D. Lai
Quite excited hearing the composition for the first time. The music is on par with other Beethoven Trios with an excellent playing by the Project Trio.Published on June 29, 2010 by MK
This is a welcome addition to any Beethoven enthusiast's collection. This trio is not to be missed!Published on June 6, 2010 by Suzan-amanda Ingram