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Beethoven: Ghost Trio

Can you guess this piece? Here’s a hint: music that goes “bump” in the night…

The so-called “Ghost” trio is not mysterious and supernatural all the way through. The vibrant outer movements strongly contrast with this central Largo from which the trio’s “ghostly” nickname is taken. Although this nickname was not Beethoven’s own, it has become indelibly associated with the work. While later Romantics would dwell macabre visions of the afterlife at great length, this was never really Beethoven’s thing. However, while composing this trio, Beethoven was considering writing an opera based on Shakespeare’s “Macbeth.” Although this idea was ultimately abandoned, Beethoven had started to work out ideas for the appearance of the three witches. Perhaps some of this supernatural flavor was channeled into the stark textures, shuddering tremolo, and tenuous harmonies that give this movement its otherworldly tinge.

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