Beethoven PLUS!

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

Today’s programme features the mighty ‘Kreutzer’ Sonata for violin and piano in A major, Op. 47. Quite the largest and most virtuosic such work up to this period in history (1803), Beethoven’s concept is on a symphonic scale and utterly exhilarating from start to finish. We include Mozart’s masterful Trio in B flat major K. 502 and Schumann’s gorgeous Fantasiestücke, Op. 88 for piano trio.


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, David Aspin, 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)

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.

Upcoming Beethoven PLUS! Concerts

Pleyel Ensemble

Date City Venue
22/06/24 Manchester Emmanuel Church
Time: 11:00am. Admission: £5. Address: 6 Barlow Moor Rd, Didsbury. Beethoven Plus! no. 32: the last of Beethoven’s sonatas for ‘cello and piano, Op. 102, no. 2 in D is paired with works for ‘cello and piano by Debussy and Schumann.
13/07/24 Manchester Emmanuel Church
Time: 11:00am. Admission: £5. Box office: 0161 976 5955. Address: 6 Barlow Moor Rd, Didsbury. Beethoven Plus! no. 33: The Final concert in our series showcasing Beethoven’s chamber works with piano. Today we play the magnificent ‘Ghost’ trio, Op. 70, no. 1 and his last sonata for violin and piano, Op. 96 in G, to bring the series to a special close.

Previous Concerts

Ben Powell joins Harvey for a programme of piano duets to complete Beethoven’s works for four hands with his two sets of variations WoO74 and WoO67. These delightful works are included with Mozart’s mature masterpiece for piano duet, his Sonata in F, K. 497, Debussy’s Six épigraphes antiques, L139 composed in 1914 and James Ledger’s exhilarating ‘Western Roundup’ written for Helen and Harvey Davies in 1997.

Today’s Beethoven is his Op. 66 Variations on a theme of Mozart for ‘cello and piano and we revisit our dear friend Joseph Haydn with his magical piano trio in F# minor, Hob. XV:26. The second half is Shostakovich’s powerful 2nd piano trio, op. 67 in E minor.

There are ten marvellous sonatas for violin and piano by Beethoven and we are presenting the 8th today; Op. 30, no.3 in G major. It’s a joyful work and one of the most frequently played of the set. Programmed with the sonata is Beethoven’s ‘Eyeglass’ duo for viola and ‘cello and two terrific string trios by our namesake, Pleyel, and the English composer Arnold Cooke. It’s a delight for us to welcome David Aspin back to Didsbury with his viola!

Sarah and Harvey continue the series of violin sonatas with Op. 30, no.2 in C minor. Famously, C minor is the key for Beethoven’s most stormy music and he certainly doesn’t disappoint in this fabulous work. Also on the programme is the little-known trio in Eb WoO38, a work written when our hero was only 20 or 21 years old. As the ensemble has a new recording of the piano trios of  Thomas Pitfield coming out soon, we are pairing the Beethoven works with Pitfield’s Lyric Trio in F minor and this performance will probably only be its 3rd public performance.

Sarah and Harvey continue their exploration of Beethoven’s violin sonatas with one of the least known, that in A major, Op. 30, no. 1. There is no good reason for its comparative obscurity as it is top-quality music with a magical slow movement and imaginative set of variations to finish. We will also play the Master’s 6 German Dances and have a real surprise for you all! The 2nd half is the luscious piano trio, Op. 32 in D minor by Anton Arensky. This is a big work in the rich, late Romantic Russian tradition and not to be missed!

Our new season begins with one of Beethoven’s masterpieces for ‘cello and piano, the Sonata in C major, Op. 102, no.1. A profound work dedicated to his dear friend the Countess Anna Maria Erdödy, this is the most compact of his ‘cello sonatas. Also on the programme is the set of variations for violin and piano on Mozart’s ‘Se vuol ballare’ from his opera Don Giovanni. The second half will be Robert Schumann’s glorious Quintet for piano and strings, Op. 44.

Beethoven burst onto the Viennese scene with his Op. 1 piano trios; large-scale, exciting and challenging works and today we play no. 3 in C minor, a key that was special for Beethoven (think of the 5th Symphony and 3rd Piano Concerto, for example). In the 2nd half is the glorious Piano Quartet in Eby Antonín Dvořák, a work full of beautiful melodies and folk-inspired harmonies.

There are 10 sonatas for violin and piano and Sarah and Harvey return with perhaps the most famous, Op. 24 in F major, nicknamed the ‘Spring’ for its sunny, uplifting nature. We pair it with the first of Brahms’ sonatas; his Op. 78 in G major and the three Romances, Op. 13 by Clara Schumann.

We are delighted to welcome back Sarah Ewins and David Aspin for a concert of piano quartets: the third of Beethoven’s early, and pioneering, works in this genre and Gabriel Fauré’s luscious and ever-popular work in C minor, op. 15. A programme not to be missed!

Beethoven Plus! 21 We welcome the wonderful flautist Amina Hussein to join us for the 2nd concert of the year at Emmanuel. Amina is principal flute of Manchester Camerata and you may well have seen her on BBC One recently in a programme showcasing her work with Camerata as a music therapist, particularly with those living with dementia. We will play some of Beethoven’s little-known variations from Opp. 105 and 107, Martinu’s joyful trio for flute, cello and piano and Beethoven’s profound Sonata for ‘cello and piano, Op. 69 in A major.

This first recital of 2023 features the music of three of Beethoven’s pupils, Carl Czerny (1791-1857) and Ferdinand Ries (1784-1838), alongside music by their Master and his friend, the pianist, Ignaz Moscheles. Czerny, Moscheles and Ries were fine pianists and prolific composers whose music deserves to be heard more frequently. We welcome Helen Davies to partner Harvey at the piano in Czerny’s Sonata Militaire, Op. 119 with the unusual scoring of accompaniment for violin and ‘cello, and Sarah and Harvey will play Ries’s 42nd Sonata for piano and violin, Op. 83 and Harvey will play the beautiful slow movement from Moscheles’ Sonata, Op. 41 for piano. Beethoven appears in the programme with his 3 Marches for piano duet, Op. 45.

Sarah and Harvey play Beethoven’s Violin Sonata no. 4 in A minor, Op. 23. Composed as the 19th century dawned, this work really looks forward to new possibilities, sounds and musical structures. Rather less well-known than its partner piece, the ‘Spring’ Sonata, this positively fizzes with energy and is full of surprises, as ever! We partner this wonderful music with Sir Edward Elgar’s equally wonderful Sonata, Op. 82. Aching with beauty and melancholy, this was written towards the end of the First World War in 1918 and seems to draw a musical line in the sand to acknowledge that what had been could never be again, in so many ways.

We return to a piano trio programme for today’s concert and two youthful, invigorating works. First, Beethoven’s joyful G major trio, Op. 1, no. 2 from 1794/95. Our hero begins to explore the possibilities of an expanded form and finds new expressive depths in his glorious slow movement. The Finale, with its cheeky, humorous rondo theme surely a tribute to his teacher, Joseph Haydn! After the interval, we play the little-known trio in C minor, Op. 5 by Max Bruch. Bruch was a prolific composer who is known today for only a handful of pieces such as the G minor violin concerto, the Scottish Fantasy, ‘Kol Nidrei’ and a few others. The trio was composed when he was a student aged just 19 and is full of passion and beauty.

We welcome the new season back with Mozart’s glorious Quintet for piano and winds in E flat K. 452. The great man told his father that he thought it the best work he had yet composed and it is certainly a masterwork. Beethoven modelled his own Quintet Op. 16 on Mozart’s example in 1796, nevertheless, it’s entirely characteristic of the new Young Pretender to the compositional throne!

In memoriam Joy White

We celebrate the life of our dear friend and loyal supporter, Joy White, who passed away a year ago at the age of 90. We were privileged to give a short concert for her on her 90th birthday in her garden, it being during lockdown. Today we remember her extraordinary vitality and love of music with two fabulous piano trios; Antonín Dvořák’s evergreen Dumky Trio, Op. 90 and Beethoven’s great masterpiece dubbed ‘The Archduke’. So-named for it’s dedicatee Archduke Rudolph, Beethoven’s Op. 97 trio is one of the finest chamber works ever written!

Celebrity Guest Concert.

Postponed from 2020 because of the pandemic, this concert is a particularly special one. We are joined by the world-renowned tenor James Gilchrist to present Beethoven’s song cycle ‘An die ferne Geliebte’, Op. 98 and the young Schubert’s rarely-performed response to it: ‘Einsamkeit’. We partner these pioneering works with three of Beethoven’s folksong settings and a brand new work that we have commissioned from Tom Davey. Oboist and cor anglais player with the Hallé Orchestra, Tom is also a fine composer and we are thrilled that he has written a set of three songs with piano trio accompaniment as partner works for the Beethoven folk settings. This is an unmissable concert and a very special occasion for us too!

Spring has arrived!

We welcome the arrival of daffodils and the lengthening days with what else but Beethoven’s Sonata in F major for violin and piano, Op. 24 ‘The Spring’. Although the title was neither given nor approved by Beethoven, the glorious opening theme and sunny disposition of this famous work make it entirely appropriate. With perhaps the shortest Scherzo composed by anyone up to this point, this work represents Beethoven in a decidedly good mood!

We also include Romances by Clara Schumann for violin and piano and revisit Haydn with the wonderful, late trio in F sharp minor written for his friend Rebecca Schroeter. Full of new innovations, this work has a most beautiful slow movement in F sharp major, a key with six sharps and hardly ever used in the 18th century, giving it a peculiar and personal sound world.

We are delighted to welcome Sarah Ewins back in a programme of piano trios: Mendelssohn’s delicious Trio in D minor, Op. 49 and Beethoven’s masterpiece, the Trio in E flat, Op. 70, no. 2, partner to his more famous ‘Ghost’ Trio, but its musical equal.

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.