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Livestream: Faculty Trio: Beethoven Piano Trios, Part III

Monday, November 16, 2020 - 7:30pm
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  • Craig Sheppard,Sæunn Thorsteinsdóttir, Rachel Priday Faculty Concert
    Faculty colleagues Craig Sheppard,Sæunn Thorsteinsdóttir, and Rachel Lee Priday perform Beethoven piano trios on Nov. 16.

Faculty colleagues Craig Sheppard, piano; Sæunn Thorsteinsdóttir, cello; and Rachel Lee Priday, violin, conclude their three-concert performance of the complete cycle of Beethoven piano trios. The performance, live-streamed from the University of Washington’s Meany Hall, is followed by a brief question-and-answer session. 

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Trio movement in E flat, Hess 48 (1784)


Trio in E flat, WoO 38 (1790/91)                            

      Allegro moderato

      Allegro ma non troppo



Trio in E flat, Opus 44 (1792 – published 1804)

      14 Variations on a Theme from Das Rote Käppchen

      (The Little Red Hat) by Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf:

      Ja, ich muss mich von ihr scheiden (Yes, I must leave her)          


Trio movement in B flat, WoO 39 (1812)

      Allegretto (Dedicated to Maximiliane Brentano)


Trio in G Major, Opus 121a (1803-1816, published 1824)     

      10 Variations on Ich bin der Schneider Kakadu

 (I am Kakadu, the Taylor) by Wenzel Müller

Introduzione: Adagio assai

Theme: Allegretto

Program Notes

The five short works on tonight’s program span most of Beethoven’s compositional life.  The first three works are in the key of E flat, and all were written before Beethoven moved to Bonn in 1792 at the age of 21. 

The first, Hess 48, appeared in a notebook of Beethoven’s dating from 1784 to 1790, and it has therefore been assumed that the work was from the earliest of those years, given it sparse style.  My guess, though, is that it could have been written even a couple of years prior to that, before the three so-called Bonn Piano Sonatas (WoO) of 1781 and 1782.  Certainly, these three sonatas show a much more sophisticated compositional style than the trio.  Then again, the trio might have been a fragment of a work that Beethoven wished to develop further at a later date.  We’ll never know.

The next piece is the three movement trio, WoO 38 (Work without Opus) from 1790. Considerably more developed than Hess 48, it sounds at times like Haydn, albeit Beethoven had not yet worked with the great man.  The work has no slow movement and shows a lightness of touch, in keeping with the spirit of the times.

The third work is a set of fourteen variations on a theme from the romantic comic Singspiel (like an opera with a great deal of dialogue), Das Rote Käppchen (The Little Red Cap) by Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf.  In it, the mayor of the town, Hans Christoph Nitsche, becomes wildly jealous when the young Lieutenant von Felsenberg gives the mayor’s wife a bit too much attention, and decides that he must leave her (Ja, ich muss mich von ihr scheiden – Yes, I must leave her). The opening theme, a series of unisons based on an E flat chord, finds the mayor tiptoeing around the house, spying on his wife and plotting his imminent departure.  There is much frolicking in the ensuing variations, including two in the minor key.  At the end, Hans has second thoughts momentarily, and lingers, then dashes for the door at the last second.  Beethoven’s well-known ability to improvise is suggested strongly in this work. Written in the early months of 1792, the variations were published twelve years later, ergo the Opus 44 assigned to it.

The short trio movement in B flat, WoO 39, was composed in 1812 and dedicated to the ten year old Maximiliane Bretano, daughter of Antonia, the woman thought to have been the Immortal Beloved alluded to in a famous letter Beethoven wrote that same year.  The suspicion lingers that this trio movement might have been written in order to gain Antonia’s attention, yet Beethoven thought highly enough of Maximiliane’s pianistic talent to dedicate his Opus 109 sonata to her eight years hence.

The Kakadu Variations, Opus 121a, are perhaps unique in Beethoven’s output, in that he composed the work in stages over an extended period.  The Kakadu Variations uses a theme from a popular opera of the day by Wenzel Müller, Die Schwestern von Prag (The Sisters from Prague), which is yet another romantic comedy. The simple tune,Ich bin der Schneider Kakadu (I am Kakadu, the Taylor), is in G Major, and the majority of the variations are thought to have been composed in 1803. Around 1816, Beethoven added a lengthy introduction in G minor that takes up, timewise, slightly over a third of the piece.  He also included a double fugue in the last variation that is redolent of his counterpoint from these later years (Opus 106, Opus 110, Opus 131, etc.).  That theKakaduweren’t published until 1824, about the time of the Diabelli Variations (Opus 120) and the Ninth Symphony (Opus 125), lends credence to the possibility that further changes were made to the 1816 manuscript.  The resultant stylistic differences have often been criticized within the musical community.  We feel, on the other hand, that they are what give the work its unusual interest, both for us as performers and for the listener.

—Craig Sheppard, copyright 2020

Artist Bios

Rachel Lee Priday, violin

Violinist RACHEL LEE PRIDAY (PRY-day) is a passionate and inquisitive explorer in all her musical ventures, in search of contemporary relevance when performing the standard violin repertoire, and in discovering and commissioning new works. Her wide-ranging repertoire and eclectic programming reflect a deep fascination with literary and cultural narratives.

Rachel Lee Priday has appeared as soloist with major international orchestras, including the Chicago, Saint Louis, Houston, Seattle, and National Symphony Orchestras, the Boston Pops, and the Berlin Staatskapelle. Recital appearances have brought her to eminent venues including the Mostly Mozart Festival at Lincoln Center, Musée du Louvre, Verbier Festival, Ravinia Festival and Dame Myra Hess Memorial Series in Chicago, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Festival in Germany, and tours of South Africa and the United Kingdom.

Committed to new music, and making enriching community and global connections, Rachel takes a multidisciplinary approach to performing that lends itself to new commissions organically merging poetry, dance, drama, stimulating visuals and music. Recent seasons have seen a new Violin Sonata commissioned from Pulitzer Prize Finalist Christopher Cerrone and the premiere of Matthew Aucoin’s “The Orphic Moment” in an innovative staging that mixed poetry, drama, visuals, and music. Rachel has collaborated several times with Ballet San Jose, and was lead performer in “Tchaikovsky: None But The Lonely Heart” during a week-long theatrical concert with Ensemble for the Romantic Century at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM). Her work as soloist with the Asia America New Music Institute promoted new music relationships and cultural exchange between Asia and the Americas, combining new music premieres and educational outreach in the US, China, Korea and Vietnam. 

Rachel began her violin studies at the age of four in Chicago. Shortly thereafter, she moved to New York to study with iconic pedagogue Dorothy DeLay, and continued her studies at the Juilliard School Pre-College Division with Itzhak Perlman. Rachel holds a B.A. degree in English from Harvard University and an M.M. from the New England Conservatory, where she studied with Miriam Fried. Since Fall 2019, she serves as Assistant Professor of Violin at the University of Washington School of Music.

Recent and upcoming concerto engagements include the Pacific Symphony, Buffalo Philharmonic, Johannesburg Philharmonic, Kwazulu-Natal Philharmonic, Stamford Symphony, and Bangor Symphony. Since making her orchestral debut at the Aspen Music Festival in 1997, she has performed with numerous orchestras across the country, such as the symphony orchestras of Colorado, Alabama, Knoxville, Rockford, and New York Youth Symphony. In Europe and in Asia, she has appeared at the Moritzburg Festival in Germany and with orchestras in Graz, Austria, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Korea, where she performed with the KBS Symphony, Seoul Philharmonic and Russian State Symphony Orchestra on tour.

Rachel has been profiled in The New Yorker, The Los Angeles Times, Family Circle, and The Strad. Her concerts have been broadcast on major media outlets in the U.S., Germany, Korea, South Africa, and Brazil, including a televised concert in Rio de Janeiro, numerous radio appearances on 98.7 WFMT Chicago radio, and American Public Media’s Performance Today. She been featured on the Disney Channel, “Fiddling for the Future” and “American Masters” on PBS, and the Grammy Awards.

Praised by the Chicago Tribune for her “irresistible panache,” Rachel Lee Priday enthralls audiences with her riveting stage presence and “rich, mellifluous sound.” The Baltimore Sun wrote, “It’s not just her technique, although clearly there’s nothing she can’t do on the fingerboard or with her bow. What’s most impressive is that she is an artist who can make the music sing… And though her tone is voluptuous and sexy where it counts, she concluded the ‘Intermezzo’ with such charm that her listeners responded with a collective chuckle of approval as she finished.”

She performs on a Nicolo Gagliano violin (Naples, 1760), double-purfled with fleurs-de-lis, named Alejandro.

Piano Professor Craig Sheppard

Craig Sheppard is Professor of Piano and Head of Keyboard at the School of Music of the University of Washington in Seattle.  He is also Professor of the Advanced Innovation Center at the China Conservatory in Beijing, and his former students hold positions in conservatories and universities throughout the world. 

A veteran of over fifty years on the international stage, in the past few seasons he has performed both Shostakovich’s 24 Preludes and Fugues and Bach’s The Art of Fugue in venues throughout the United States, as well as London, Manchester (UK), Jerusalem, Shanghai and Beijing’s Forbidden City Concert Hall, in addition to giving masterclasses at all of the above. 

As recording artist, his LPs and CDs have appeared on the Sony, Chandos, Philips, EMI and AT-Berlin labels.  He has published 26 CDs with Romeo Records (NY) since 2005, including the complete Beethoven sonatas (Beethoven: A Journey), the Six Bach Partitas, the Inventions and Sinfornias, both books of The Well Tempered Clavier, the last three Schubert sonatas, Liszt’s Années de Pèlerinage I and II, Debussy’s 24 Preludes and 12 Études (including both books of Images and Estampes), the 24 Preludes and Fugues of Shostakovich, Late Piano Works, Opus 116-19,  of Johannes Brahms, and Bach’s Die Kunst der Fuge (The Art of Fugue).   

Within the past two decades, he has traveled many times to the Far East for performances and masterclasses, including Japan, Korea, China, Hong Kong, and Singapore.  He has performed at the Nehru Memorial Library in New Delhi, held a residency at the Melba Conservatory in Melbourne, Australia, and performed three times in New Zealand, including the first ever public performances of both books of Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier. Most recently, he performed the Complete Chopin Nocturnes at the Museu do Oriente in Lisbon.

Born in Philadelphia in November, 1947, Craig Sheppard graduated from both the Curtis Institute and the Juilliard School, studying with Eleanor Sokoloff and Sasha Gorodnitzki respectively.  He also worked with Rudolf Serkin and Pablo Casals at the Marlboro Festival, and later with Ilona Kabos, Peter Feuchtwanger and Sir Clifford Curzon in London.  During his early years, in addition to a successful début at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, he won top prizes in the Busoni, Ciani, and Rubinstein competitions.  However, it was his Silver Medal at the Leeds International Piano Competition in 1972 that brought him to international attention.  Moving to London in 1973 and living there for the next twenty years, Sheppard taught at Lancaster University, the Yehudi Menuhin School, and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.  He also performed on multiple occasions with all the major British orchestras and with many on the European continent, under such conductors as Sir George Solti, Erich Leinsdorf, Kurt Sanderling, James Levine, Michael Tilson Thomas, Aaron Copland, Lord Yehudi Menuhin, Sir Charles Mackerras, Sir Andrew Davis, Sir John Pritchard, Esa-Pekka Salonen, David Zinman, and Leonard Slatkin. In the United States, he has performed with the orchestras of Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas, San Francisco, Rochester and Seattle, and many others. 

Craig Sheppard’s solo repertoire is eclectic, comprising nearly fifty solo recital programs and more than sixty concerti covering a wide spectrum within the Western canon.  He also has a great love of chamber music and has collaborated with many great instrumentalists and singers, including Wynton Marsalis, José Carreras, Victoria de los Angeles, Irina Arkhipova, Ida Handel, Sylvia Rosenberg, Mayumi Fujikawa, the Cleveland, Emerson and Miró string quartets, and many musicians of the younger generation, including James Ehnes, Stefan Jackiw, Richard O’Neill, Edward Arron and Johannes Moser.

Sheppard is invited frequently to serve on the juries of distinguished international competitions, including most recently the Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Master Competition in Tel Aviv in May of 2021 and the National Society of Arts and Letters in Chicago in 2022.  He also returns regularly to the Jerusalem Music Center to perform and teach, as well as the Chetham’s Summer School in Manchester, UK.  With colleague Dr. Robin McCabe, Sheppard is Co-Founder and Artistic Director of the Seattle Piano Institute, a boot camp for aspiring young pianists  held every July at the University of Washington, this summer celebrating its 14th anniversary.

Saeunn Thorsteinsdottir

Icelandic-American cellist Sæunn Thorsteinsdóttir enjoys a varied career as a performer, collaborator and educator.  She has appeared as soloist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Toronto Symphony Orchestra and Iceland Symphony, among others, and her recital and chamber music performances have taken her across the US, Europe and Asia.  Sæunn has performed in many of the world’s prestigious halls including Carnegie Hall, Suntory Hall, Elbphilharmonie, Barbican Center and Disney Hall and the press have described her as “charismatic” and “riveting” (NYTimes) and praised her performances for their “emotional intensity” (LATimes).

An avid chamber musician, she has collaborated in performance with Itzhak Perlman, Mitsuko Uchida, Richard Goode and members of the Emerson, Guarneri, St. Lawrence and Cavani Quartets and has performed in numerous chamber music festivals, including Santa Fe, Seattle, Stellenbosch, Orcas Island, Bay Chamber, Prussia Cove and Marlboro, with whom she has toured. She is cellist of the Seattle-based group, Frequency, and cellist and founding member of Decoda, The Affiliate Ensemble of Carnegie Hall.

In the 2018-2019 season, Sæunn makes her debut with the BBC and Seattle Symphonies performing the award-winning cello concerto,Quake, written for her by Páll Ragnar Pálsson. Chamber music appearances take her to Carnegie Hall in New York City, Glasgow, and Los Angeles, as well as recitals in Reykjavík, Seattle and Chicago following the Spring 2019 release of “Vernacular”, her recording of Icelandic solo cello music on the Sono Luminus label.

Highlights of the 2017-2018 season included the US premiere of Betsy Jolas’ Wanderlied and the Hong Kong premiere of Sofia Gubaidulina’s Canticle of the Sun, as well as recitals and chamber music appearances in New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, Glasgow, London and Reykjavík. In addition to collaborating with Daníel Bjarnason on his award-winning composition Bow to String, Sæunn enjoys close working relationships with composers of our time such as Páll Ragnar Pálsson, Halldór Smárason, Melia Watras, Jane Antonia Cornish and Þuríður Jónsdóttir. 

Sæunn has garnered numerous prizes in international competitions, including the Naumburg Competition and the Antonio Janigro Competition in Zagreb. She received a Bachelor of Music from the Cleveland Institute of Music, a Master of Music from The Juilliard School and a Doctorate of Musical Arts from SUNY Stony Brook.  Her teachers and mentors include Richard Aaron, Tanya Carey, Colin Carr and Joel Krosnick.

Born in Reykjavík, Iceland, Sæunn serves on the faculty of the University of Washington in Seattle, teaching cello and chamber music. For more information, please visit