Beethoven Trio Op.1 No. 3

Trio Sonata Op.1 No. 3: Allegro con Brio       L. Beethoven (1770-1827)
Laura Rosky-Santoni, Violin
Ana Maria Maldonado, Cello

Andante cantabile con Variazioni [‘Anthem’, tender and noble, longer]

Minuetto [‘Offertory’, tongue-in-cheek onery but charming, shorter]


For Trinity Sunday I thought I’d feature a piece in which ‘Three’ figures prominently. And so we have a Beethoven TRIO sonata (THREE players), Opus 1 number THREE, in C minor (a key signature with THREE flats.)

Beethoven was the oldest surviving child of his parents’ seven children (four of his siblings died before reaching adulthood). His father Johann was violent and emotionally abusive: whenever Ludwig played poorly, Johann would beat him, proclaim him an embarrassment to the family, and sometimes lock him in the basement. Johann also pulled Ludwig out of bed in the middle of the night to perform for his drinking buddies, beating him if he protested.

Johann was also a raging alcoholic, which worsened when his wife died in 1787. His younger brothers were now dependent on 16-year-old Ludwig to keep them all off the street, and Ludwig postponed his musical career to put his family first. Indeed, in 1789 teenage Ludwig obtained an order resulting in one half of Johann’s pay as a court musician being paid to him directly for support of his family (supplementing Ludwig’s own earnings). On one occasion Ludwig had to intervene with the police to prevent his father being taken into custody (one wonders: why didn’t he just let the cops arrest him?). When Johann died in 1792, his employer the Elector wrote sardonically to a friend, “The revenues from the liquor excise [tax] have suffered a loss in the death of [Johann] Beethoven.”

So, finally free of his father, and his brothers old enough to fend for themselves, Beethoven moved to Vienna in 1792 to launch his career in earnest. (His brothers soon followed, and big brother Ludwig continued to help them financially and otherwise). He began studying with Haydn, Salieri (with whom he studied until Beethoven was at least 32) and pretty much every important music teacher in Vienna that would have him. He also sought to establish himself as a pianist, improvising on the piano and performing Preludes and Fugues from Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier (!) as well as music by Mozart and Haydn in the salons of Vienna. There was a widespread belief that he was the successor to the recently deceased Mozart (1756-1791). Count Waldstein, one of Beethoven’s patrons wrote: “Through uninterrupted diligence you will receive Mozart’s spirit through Haydn’s hands.”

Which brings us to this morning’s piece. Beethoven wrote it when he was 23, but it wasn’t published until he was 25. It’s a set of three trio sonatas, each with four movements. The first sonata is in a style virtually indistinguishable from Mozart. The second — hmm, not quite Mozart anymore – trouble in River City. And the third sonata in C minor – ah, No. 3 is a full scale eruption of Beethoven as we have come to know him, ranging from tender to thunderous in almost the same breath. (The same Lord who created butterflies also created volcanoes.) It was with this set of Trio Sonatas (particularly No. 3) that he first proclaimed to the world: “I am Beethoven! Hear me roar!”

Our violinist Laura Rosky-Santoni has degrees from Rice University (BM) and the University of Southern California (MM) in violin performance where she specialized in opera and 20th Century music. She was a fellow at the Berkshire Music Center, has performed under Leonard Bernstein, Kurt Masur and Seiji Ozawa and has been a guest teacher/coach/clinician across the country. Mrs. Santoni currently plays with the San Bernardino Symphony Orchestra and teaches privately. She volunteers for the string orchestra at El Roble Intermediate School in Claremont giving semi-private instruction and upper string sectionals.

Our cellist, Ana Maria Maldonado received her Master of Music in Cello Performance from the University of Southern California where she studied with Gabor Rejto. Ana Maria was awarded a J. D Rockefeller Fellowship to promote Western Classical Music in Bangkok, Thailand where she played in the Kennedy String Quartet. The Kennedy String Quartet traveled throughout Asia concertizing under the auspices of the United States Information Service. These concerts included playing in Vietnam, Laos and Nepal. Currently, Ana Maria teaches at Cal Poly Pomona, Cal State San Bernardino, Chaffey College, Cal Baptist University, Riverside Community College and at the Claremont Community School of Music. She has served as principal cellist of the San Bernardino Symphony since 1983 and is a free lance musician.