The trio was written late in the Beethoven’s so-called “middle period”. He began composing it in the summer of 1810, and completed it in March 1811.
Although the “Archduke Trio” is sometimes numbered as “No. 7”, the numbering of Beethoven’s twelve piano trios is not standardized, and in other sources the Op. 97 trio may be shown as having a different number, if any.
The first public performance was given by Beethoven himself, Ignaz Schuppanzigh (violin) and Josef Linke (cello) at the Viennese hotel Zum römischen Kaiser on 11 April 1814, as his deafness continued to encroach upon his ability as a performer. After a repeat of the work a few weeks later, Beethoven did not appear again in public as a pianist.
The violinist and composer Louis Spohr witnessed a rehearsal of the work, and wrote: “On account of his deafness there was scarcely anything left of the virtuosity of the artist which had formerly been so greatly admired. In forte passages the poor deaf man pounded on the keys until the strings jangled, and in piano he played so softly that whole groups of notes were omitted, so that the music was unintelligible unless one could look into the pianoforte part. I was deeply saddened at so hard a fate.”
The pianist and composer Ignaz Moscheles attended the first performance, and wrote about the work: “In the case of how many compositions is the word “new” misapplied! But never in Beethoven’s, and least of all in this, which again is full of originality. His playing, aside from its intellectual element, satisfied me less, being wanting in clarity and precision; but I observed many traces of the grand style of playing which I had long recognized in his compositions.”
A typical performance runs approximately 40 minutes in length.
References in popular culture
The Archduke plays a significant role in Elizabeth George‘s mystery A Traitor to Memory (2001)
In Haruki Murakami‘s novel Kafka on the Shore (2002), the piece and its history are used to explain the relationship between two main characters, Nakata and Hoshino, and the latter’s development as a person