Beethoven, Piano and Clarinet Trio in B-flat, op.11: Jacqueline du Pré
The Piano Trio in B-flat major, Op. 11, was composed by Ludwig van Beethoven in 1797 and published in Vienna the next year. It is one of a series of early chamber works, many involving woodwind instruments because of their popularity and novelty at the time. The trio is scored for piano, clarinet (or violin), and cello (sometimes substituted by bassoon). The key of B-flat major was probably chosen to facilitate fast passages in the B-flat clarinet, which had not yet benefited from the development of the Boehm system. Beethoven dedicated the piece to Countess Maria Wilhelmine von Thun.
The work is also sometimes known by the nickname “Gassenhauer Trio”. This arose from its third movement which creates nine variations from a theme from the then popular dramma giocoso L’amor marinaro ossia Il corsaro (15 October 1797, Wiener Hoftheater) by Joseph Weigl. This particular melody, “Pria ch’io l’impegno” (“Before I go to work”), was so popular it could be heard in many of Vienna’s lanes (“Gasse” in German). Contemporary equivalents of the term “Gassenhauer” include “hit” (success) or “schlager“. Other composers who used this melody include Joseph von Eybler, Johann Nepomuk Hummel and Niccolò Paganini.
Because of its unique scoring in Beethoven’s output, there is some uncertainty as to whether to include it in the ordinal numbering of Beethoven’s piano trios. Some assign it “No. 4” between the Op. 1 and Op. 70 sets while others leave the work out of the numbering.