Beethoven PLUS!

The Divine Spark by Ian Hill-Smith
The Divine Spark by Ian Hill-Smith

Beethoven Plus! features Beethoven’s complete chamber works with piano including the violin sonatas, cello sonatas, trios and piano quartets.

The Pleyel Ensemble are delighted to announce that following the great success of our Mozart Plus! and Haydn Plus! series which ran from June 2013 to June 2019 we present our latest project; Beethoven Plus! This will feature Beethoven’s complete chamber works with piano including the violin sonatas, cello sonatas, trios, piano quartets and other works. The performances will be illustrated by letters and other contemporary writings, putting the music into the wider context of the composer’s life in an entertaining and informative way. The concerts will be given by Sarah Ewins, Susie Mészáros, Heather Bills and Harvey Davies joined by other members of the Pleyels from time to time.


Each concert features contrasting chamber music by other composers for a variety of instrumental combinations and we welcome repertoire suggestions from our audience for future concerts.

(Scroll down further for details of previous concerts in the series)

Upcoming Beethoven PLUS! Concerts

Date City Venue
29/01/22 Manchester Emmanuel Church
Time: 11:00am. Admission: £5. Address: 6 Barlow Moor Rd, Didsbury. Sarah’s back with Heather and Harvey for Beethoven’s wonderful trio Op.70, no. 2 in E flat and Mendelssohn’s ever-popular D minor piano trio Op. 49.
12/03/22 Manchester Emmanuel Church
Time: 11:00am. Admission: £5. Address: 6 Barlow Moor Rd, Didsbury. Sarah and Harvey continue their journey through Beethoven’s violin sonatas with perhaps the most frequently-played, his Op. 24 in F major ‘The Spring’. This is contrasted with Haydn’s extraordinary piano trio in F# minor.
23/04/22 Manchester Emmanuel Church
Time: 11:00am. Admission: £5. Address: 6 Barlow Moor Rd, Didsbury. Superstar guest James Gilchrist, one of Britain’s finest tenors, joins us for Beethoven’s masterpiece ‘An die ferne Geliebte’, Schubert’s ‘Einsamkeit’ and some of Beethoven’s British folksong settings with piano trio accompaniment.
18/06/22 Manchester Emmanuel Church
Time: 11:00am. Admission: £5. Address: 6 Barlow Moor Rd, Didsbury. Programme tba

Sarah’s famous cakes will be available and entry to the concerts can be secured for just £5!

N.B. Current guidelines no longer require you to state whether you are booking in bubbles or not, and cakes do not need to pre-ordered.

Previous Concerts

Join us again to hear Beethoven’s brilliant arrangement of his own hugely popular Septet, Op. 20 for clarinet, cello and piano. Janet Hilton makes a very welcome return to Didsbury, joining Heather and Harvey for this work, which Beethoven rejigged as his Op. 38.

Perhaps this arrangement was made for commercial reasons, but even so, it gives us another (cheaper!) option when programming this work. We pair it with American composer Robert Muczynski’s Fantasy Trio, Op. 26. Written in 1971 this dynamic and vital work makes a real contrast to the Beethoven with its spicy harmonies and powerful rhythmic drive.

Join us again for a real Beethoven rarity: the Trio for flute, bassoon and piano in G, WoO 37, written when our man was just fifteen years of age!

We welcome the wonderful flautist Martyn Shaw to join regulars Laurence Perkins and Harvey Davies to play this fascinating early work. Written for three members of a noble Bonn family, this music was written for the players to show off. It was not published in Beethoven’s lifetime, but found amongst his papers after his death.

The programme is completed with a sonata by the French Baroque composer, Nicholas Chédeville, and some short works by Nicole Buetti, C. P. E. Bach and  Ernest Tomlinson.

First, we play a rarity: the first trio by Bolton’s very own Thomas Baron Pitfield (1903-1999). Pitfield was a brilliant and creative soul: composer, calligrapher, poet, engraver, cabinet maker, artist and more! This attractive short work in three movements revels in its luxurious Englishness and was published in 1933. Pitfield died in Bowdon having continued his creative endeavours into his 90s.

To complete the programme is Beethoven’s Op. 5, no. 2 in G minor. Written in 1796 for King Friedrich Wilhelm II, our hero breaks new ground (as ever!) as he invents new ways to tackle the cello and piano medium. This work is the partner to the F major sonata that we played in Beethoven Plus! 4 back in that fateful March of 2020.

Harvey and Helen Davies begin with Beethoven’s short Sonata for piano duet, Op. 6 plus Haydn’s 18th century piano lesson: Il Maestro e lo Scolare. Next, we revisit our Mozart and Haydn Plus! Series with Mozart’s fabulous Sonata in Bb K. 454 written for the violin virtuosa, Regina Strinasacchi, who was visiting Vienna in 1784. We finish with Haydn’s 18th piano trio, the A major written in 1794.

This concert doubled as the first in our Tenth Anniversary Celebration Day!

We’re making up for lost time, so this is Beethoven Plus! number 8, hot on the heels of no. 7. Sarah and Harvey play Beethoven’s virtuosic and ground-breaking Sonata for violin and piano in Eb major, Op. 12, no. 3. Dedicated to Antonio Salieri, this remarkable music was designed to showcase its creator’s skills as pianist and composer. We pair it with a work by another young virtuoso composer of the next generation: Johannes Brahms’ Piano Quartet in G minor, Op. 25 with its famous ‘Gypsy’ last movement. This wonderful piece was also calculated to thrill!!

Two more of Beethoven’s chamber works flank a late piano trio by Mozart. We begin with Ludwig’s Variations for ‘cello and piano, WoO46, on a theme from Mozart’s Magic Flute: ‘Bei Männern, welche Liebe fühlen’. This is sung by Papageno lamenting his inability to get himself a date!! Beethoven’s variations on this famous tune date from 1801 when the melody itself was only ten years old! Next is a little jewel of Beethoveniana, the perfect trio movement in Bb written in 1812 as a present for a ten year old girl; Maximiliane Brentano, daughter of the lady who may have been Beethoven’s ‘Immortal Beloved’….if that’s the case, no wonder the music is so tender and special… We finish with Mozart’s late piano trio in G major, K. 564 from 1788. This charming work is Mozart’s last offering in the genre, it’s simplicity belying its maturity, but underlining its genius.

Sarah and Harvey continue their exploration of Beethoven’s ten violin sonatas with Op. 12, no. 2 in A major. Dedicated to the court composer Salieri (allegedly Mozart’s poisoner), it is one of the least often performed of the sonatas. We pair it, in this shorter, COVID-Age concert with the glorious Quintet with double bass, in F minor, Op. 41  by Jan Ladislaus Dussek (1760-1812). Completed just a year after Beethoven’s violin sonata in A major, this marvellous piece really deserves to be better-known. The virtuosic piano part was calculated to show off its composer’s skills as pianist and the work was first heard in London 226 years ago.

We are absolutely thrilled to be back after such a long absence, and begin with a trio by Ignaz Pleyel, his Op. 31, no. 1 in F major. Very rarely heard, this fun-filled work certainly deserves an outing and we are pairing it with Beethoven’s Piano Quartet in Eb, WoO36, no. 2, written by a 16-year-old Beethoven who is beginning to flex those mighty musical muscles.

Beethoven’s first ‘cello sonata in F, Op. 5, no. 1, an enormous, virtuosic statement by the young man begins today’s programme, followed by Stravinsky’s Suite from the Soldier’s Tale and Beethoven’s Op. 11 Trio for clarinet, ‘cello and piano. We welcome the world-famous clarinettist Janet Hilton to join us again.

Beethoven Sonata for violin and piano, Op. 12, no. 1 in D major and the Horn Sonata, Op. 17 written for the virtuoso Giovanni Punto PLUS Brahms’s masterful and tragic Horn Trio, Op. 40, it’s slow movement written in memory of the composer’s mother. We are delighted to welcome one of Britain’s finest horn players, Laurence Davies, to join Sarah and his brother Harvey today.

Beethoven Piano Trio in Eb, Op. 1, no. 1 PLUS Clara Schumann Piano Trio in G minor, Op. 17 and Piano Trio no. 2 by Scottish composer James MacMillan.

Beethoven Piano Quartet in C WoO 36 PLUS Dvořák Piano Quartet no. 2 in Eb, Op. 87. We open this new series with a work composed by the 15-year-old Beethoven. Known as quartet no. 3, it actually appears first in the manuscript, but has retained the reordering given to it by its first publisher Artaria. Dvořák’s radiant work was written in the summer of 1889 during a period of frenetic inspiration for the composer.