Triple Treat: An Evening with Yo Yo Ma, Barenboim and Perlman

When three musical geniuses perform on stage with one of world’s premier orchestra, what you have is an unparalleled gift to classical music lovers. This is the case for the unique recording of Beethoven’s Triple Concerto for the cello, violin and piano. Composed in 1803 for an aristocrat, this is the only concerto Beethoven ever completed for more than one solo instrument. 

The star-studded cast for this 1995 performance of the Triple Concerto includes Yo-Yo Ma (cello), Itzhak Perlman (violin) and Daniel Barenboim who is both piano soloist and conductor, leading the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra no less. Here is a short excerpt of the lively third movement. The full video is available on Youtube.

A Note on the Triple Concerto

Beethoven’s Concero for Violin, Cello, and Piano in C Major, Opus 56 (more commonly known as the Triple Concerto) was composed in 1803. With this work, Beethoven set himself the compositional challenge of giving each soloist sufficient exposure while keeping the work within manageable bounds. The concerto shows how Beethoven was able to rise to the occasion by devising compact themes comprising basic chord and scale patterns that together, lends an air of graciousness and pomp that would have enthralled the listeners of his time (and ours too).

The Concerto has three movements and a typical performance takes close to an hour. After a hushed opening in the strings, the full orchestra takes up the main thematic material of the first (Allegro) movement, led by the cello.

The second theme is a peaceful song for the solo strings with elaborate embroidery from the piano. The movement is short (about 5 minutes), and it soon leads into the finale without a break. The closing movement is a strutting Rondo alla Polacca in the style of the polonaise, the traditional Polish dance that Chopin was to immortalize in his keyboard works.

Beethoven’s early biographer Anton Schindler claimed that the Triple Concerto was written for his  royal pupil, the future Archduke Rudolf of Austria. However, there is no record of Rudolf ever performing the work, which was not publicly premiered until 1808 in Vienna. When it came to be published, the concerto bore a dedication to a different patron: Prince Lobkowitz (Franz Joseph Maximilian), an aristocrat of Bohemia.

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