Beethoven's unfinished piano trio in F minor from 1816: A study of its genesis and significance

William Kinderman

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During 1816, Beethoven worked on a Piano Trio in F minor, which he offered to British publisher Robert Birchall on October 1 of that year. This unfinished work has received almost no previous scholarly attention, yet the manuscript sources for the F minor Trio are extensive and revealing. Study of the Scheide Sketchbook at Princeton, New Jersey, and the draft for the first movement of the trio in the Staatsbibliothek preussischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin, MS Grasnick 29, shows the originality of Beethoven's plans for the trio. The draft for the movement is transcribed and is shown to be intimately related to entries in the Scheide Sketchbook, a circumstance supporting the proposal of a new chronology for Beethoven's use of the book. In its style and structure, the F minor Trio bears comparison with several of Beethoven's earlier works in this key, such as the "Appassionata" Sonata and the F minor Quartet, Op. 95. At the same time, the unfinished trio displays affinities with some of his later pieces, such as the "Hammerklavier" Sonata, Op. 106, and it helps fill out the picture of Beethoven's artistic development during this pivotal yet relatively unproductive phase of his career. Among the tasks that occupied Beethoven when he set the trio aside were a pair of symphonies to be written for the London Philharmonic Society. Although the symphonies for London were never finished, these plans exerted an impact on Beethoven's creative activity. Examination of the sketch sources from this time not only clarifies the nature of the unfinished trio, but allows for a fresh glimpse at the early genesis of what became the Ninth Symphony. [Supplementary materials are available for this article. Go to the publisher's online edition of Journal of Musicological Research for the following free supplemental resource: an audio recording of the unfinished first movement of Beethoven's Piano Trio in F minor, as transcribed and edited by William Kinderman. Performed by: William Kinderman, piano; Christina Lixandru, violin; Diana Flesner, cello.].

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-42
Number of pages42
JournalJournal of Musicological Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Music


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