Beethoven: Triple Concerto, Op. 56

Beethoven: Triple Concerto, Op. 56

Most concertos need one soloist to play them. Beethoven’s Triple Concerto, as its name implies, needs three—a violinist, cellist, and pianist—and as such is virtually unique in the history of classical music. “It’s certainly the first and only piece I know for that combination which is performed often,” cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason tells Apple Music Classical. Playing alongside Kanneh-Mason on this Decca album are two fellow alumni of the BBC Young Musician competition—violinist Nicola Benedetti and pianist Benjamin Grosvenor. Reaching a common interpretation with a conductor and orchestra can, Kanneh-Mason observes, be more tricky with three soloists, and their own opinions to contend with, than it is with one. “That’s quite a lot to have going on,” he says, “so we rehearsed a lot as a trio separately from the orchestra, and I also rehearsed a lot with Nicky on the violin, to make sure we were coordinated in terms of what we were doing string-wise and on intonation. As long as we as a trio were very strong and convincing with our ideas, the process of combining with the orchestra would be smooth.” Just how smooth the process was can be heard on the new recording, where the Benedetti, Kanneh-Mason, and Grosvenor trio combine to brilliant effect with conductor Santtu-Matias Rouvali and the Philharmonia Orchestra, not least in their sparkling account of the Triple Concerto’s “Rondo” finale. Three high-profile international soloists coming together for a one-off project does not necessarily guarantee a high-quality end result. “We had never played together as a piano trio before, although I knew Nicky’s and Benjamin’s playing and admired it,” Kanneh-Mason explains. “But it was risky in a way, and it might not have worked.” Kanneh-Mason points to a string of live performances of the Triple Concerto, which the trio gave in the run-up to the recording, as crucial in creating the tightness and unanimity needed for a successful studio session. “It gave us time to settle, and to work on small details such as what the best position is for the three soloists on stage.” And although the Triple Concerto is far from being the best-known work by Beethoven, Kanneh-Mason reports that their live performances drew strong audience reaction. “It definitely felt like a special occasion, having three soloists on stage playing together like that,” he says. “And the music itself has such a warm and generous spirit, and an enthusiasm for life reflected in the playful interaction between the parts. It’s a very exciting and celebratory piece.” Included on the album is a selection of Beethoven’s folk song arrangements, where a piano trio accompanies the singer. The Canadian bass-baritone Gerald Finley is the soloist, a luxury casting choice for these rarely performed pieces. “I’d heard a lot of these settings before, and as a trio we selected our favorites,” Kanneh-Mason explains. “With Nicky being Scottish, Benjamin having Irish roots, and myself having Welsh, we wanted to represent those somewhat equally.” Far from writing simple accompaniments to the folk tunes, Kanneh-Mason feels that Beethoven put considerable time and attention into making his arrangements. “It’s folk music, but it’s also very highly gilded and crafted chamber music,” he comments. “Like the Triple Concerto, I think these songs are for quite a unique combination of piano trio and voice, and some of Beethoven’s writing in them is a bit more experimental. Gerald Finley is a singer who embraces all of that, and it was wonderful to work with him.”

Select a country or region

Africa, Middle East, and India

Asia Pacific


Latin America and the Caribbean

The United States and Canada