Unheard Beethoven Chamber Works Receive NY Premiere May 18

Classic Arts Features   Unheard Beethoven Chamber Works Receive NY Premiere May 18
The Beethoven Project Trio _ an ensemble that comprises pianist George Lepauw, violinist Sang Mee Lee and cellist Wendy Warner _ will offer the New York premieres of three Beethoven chamber works May 18 at Alice Tully Hall. Lepauw chats about the project.


First and foremost on the program is the only completed movement of the recently rediscovered Piano Trio in E Flat Major, Hess 47, which received its world premiere to critical acclaim in Chicago last spring. The evening will also feature the New York premieres of two other virtually unknown Beethoven trios _ Piano Trio in D Major, Anhang 3, and Piano Trio in E Flat Major, Opus 63. The beloved "Archduke" Piano Trio completes the concert program.

Lepauw, a concert pianist who resides in Paris and Chicago when not touring, was first told about the existence of a partial manuscript of an unknown Beethoven piece in 2007 by Dominique Pr_vot, president of the Association Beethoven France. Working with James F. Green, editor of the New Hess Catalog of Beethoven's Works, and members of the American Beethoven Society, Lepauw was able to secure the score of Piano Trio in E Flat Major, Hess 47. He gave the work's world premiere in Chicago with the Beethoven Project Trio on March 1, 2009; according to the Chicago Tribune, the discovery and performance of this piece has "cast revealing light on the master's working methods."

In the following interview, George Lepauw discusses his upcoming New York performance, World Premiere recording, and his experience with this project:

1. This Trio in E Flat, Hess 47, is quite a discovery! How did it come about, and what was it like for you _ as a pianist _ to recover an unknown work by this epic composer 180 years after his death?

The Hess 47 is really an amazing piece. It is Beethoven's own arrangement from his String Trio Opus 3 of 1794 in six movements, which was itself modeled on Mozart's Divertimento in the same key of E Flat, K 563 published in 1792. The Piano Trio arrangement was done years later, sometime between 1803 and 1806, but Beethoven only finished arranging the first movement. Unfortunately, he must have gotten busy with other projects and never got back to finishing the other five movements. Still, this movement is twelve minutes long and contains one of the most extensive development sections written by Beethoven, second only to his Opus 18 String Quartets. It is a happy piece, yet full of drama. Of course, for me as a pianist, I am thrilled that I have a part to play in the resurfacing of this work! And I must add that I believe, as many people who have heard this version also have said, that the piano trio version is a more powerful piece than the Opus 3 String Trio.

2. So it was never performed until 200+ years after its composition, when The Beethoven Project Trio gave the world premiere in Chicago last year?

That is correct. The story behind this piece is simply that, as Beethoven did not complete all six movements, he never sent it to a publisher. And so it was not carefully evaluated until the 20th century, when a private collector _ who had somehow gotten his hands on the manuscript _ donated it to the Beethoven Haus in Bonn in 1956. It was then that scholars began looking at it, and a score was published. Yet the piece still had never been heard, because a performance edition _ with individual parts _ still has not been published and it was a very tricky process for us to create parts for use in performance.

The other two "new" trios _ Piano Trio in D Major, Anhang 3, and Piano Trio in E Flat Major, Opus 63 _ had been performed before, but only in Europe; our concert in Chicago last year marked the North American premieres of those two works. And this Tuesday night, all THREE trios will be heard in NYC for the first time!

3. Following these three "new" trios on the Alice Tully Hall concert program is Beethoven's famous "Archduke" trio. Is there a particular reason you chose that work to supplement the premieres?

We are particularly thrilled to be performing the Archduke Piano Trio, Opus 97 as part of the program, since we think it is important to pair the unknown with the well known, to give greater understanding and depth to the works people will discover at our performance.

4. In addition to the concert at Alice Tully Hall, this month also marks the official release of the World Premiere recording of the Hess 47 Trio and the Anhang 3 Trio in D Major. Describe your experience creating this milestone record.

The great part about this recording was the process: Max Wilcox _ a multiple Grammy Winner, known especially for his sixty recordings with Artur Rubinstein for RCA Victor _ was our producer! And that was great fun, as well as very inspiring. We had the tremendous honor of recording at the American Academy of Arts and Letters in New York City, an amazing place with what I think is the most perfect acoustic anywhere. The whole process was a really fantastic experience that I will never forget. The recording will be available for purchase on May 25th through Cedille Records, distributed by Naxos. But if you come to the concert on Tuesday night, you'll have the opportunity to buy an advance copy in the lobby of Alice Tully Hall!

3. As if there wasn't enough to celebrate already, this concert also serves as The Beethoven Project Trio's New York debut! Any tours, collaborations, or other future plans in the works for the ensemble?

Yes, this is not only a New York Beethoven premiere concert (how many people can say they have been to a Beethoven premiere these days?), but it is also our New York debut as a trio. Our cellist Wendy Warner and our violinist Sang Mee Lee have spent many years in New York and have performed many times here before. But New York is new to me, as I have spent most of my life in Paris and more recently in Chicago, and I am just so excited by the energy of this city! I must have lived here in a past life because I feel right at home.

Since we formed in 2008, we have had a chance to really get to know each other and develop our own sound. The trajectory has been a real journey, and a true life experience. We have so much to express individually, and we have found that we complement each other so well in performance. Beethoven is our namesake and we perform everything that Beethoven wrote for trio. We are also working with composers on new commissions to pair with Beethoven trios during concerts and upcoming recordings, and we will be touring to many capitals around the world beginning next spring to present the "new" Beethoven trios and other works.

Visit internationalbeethovenproject.com

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