Eliot Trio in concert Feb. 6

Program to feature piano trios of Beethoven, Bruch and Mendelssohn

Manuscript for Beethoven’s “Ghost Trio,” circa 1810. Via Wikipedia Commons.

Violin and cello converse in low, hushed tones. The piano responds gently, mournfully, but grows increasingly emphatic. Brief pauses become tense outbursts and wrenching stops.

The pianist Carl Czerny, a student of Ludwig van Beethoven, once wrote that his teacher’s Piano Trio in D major, opus 70, no. 1 (1808), reminded him of the ghost of Hamlet’s father. He was not far wrong. There is evidence that Beethoven may have intended the piece for an opera based on Shakespeare’s “Macbeth.”

At 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 6, Washington University in St. Louis’ Eliot Trio will perform the “Ghost Trio,” as the piece has become known, as part of its annual concert in Holmes Lounge.

The Eliot Trio. From left to right: Seth Carlin, professor of music; David Halen, concertmaster for the St. Louis Symphony, and Bjorn Ranheim, also with the St. Louis Symphony.

Beethoven, Bruch and Mendelssohn
Named for university founder William Greenleaf Eliot, the Eliot Trio consists of Seth Carlin, professor of music in Arts & Sciences and director of the piano program; violinist David Halen, concertmaster for the St. Louis Symphony; and cellist Bjorn Ranheim, also with the St. Louis Symphony.

The program will open with the “Ghost Trio,” which Beethoven wrote as a gift to the Countess Anna Maria von Erdödy, who had helped him secure an annual stipend earlier that year. In addition to its eerie, sometimes ominous mood, the piece is notable for its monumental scale and sense of heroic struggle — a struggle that perhaps mirrors Beethoven’s own grappling, at the time of its composition, with encroaching deafness.

The program will continue with Piano Trio in C minor, opus 5 (1859) by Max Bruch. A devotee of Felix Mendelssohn, Bruch is today best remembered for his choral works and violin concertos but enjoyed a long and prolific career as a composer, conductor and teacher. This trio represents one of Bruch’s earliest works, written when he was 19.

Concluding the evening will be Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio no. 2 in C minor, opus 66 (1845). Written just two years before the composer’s untimely death at age 38, the piece is dedicated to the violinist Louis Spohr, who joined Mendelssohn, himself a virtuoso pianist, for many of the first performances.

Portrait of Felix Mendelssohn by Eduard Magnus, 1846. Via Wikipedia Commons.


Tickets are $30, or $25 for seniors and Washington University faculty and staff, and $5 for students. Seating is limited. Advance tickets are available through the Edison Theater Box Office, 314-935-6543, or via edison.wustl.edu.

Holmes Lounge is located in Ridgley Hall, on the far side of Brookings Quadrangle, near the intersection of Hoyt and Brookings drives.

For more information, call 314-935-5566 or email daniels@wustl.edu.