Philip Venables

Klaviertrio im Geiste

In the last few years I have written pieces based on music by Dowland, Bach, Mozart and Britten, and I’ve really enjoyed experimenting with these older musical forms, bringing them far away from their original modes of expressions – sometimes even subverting them – but maintaining some kind of essence of what was there. In a similar vein, I took most of the raw materials for Klaviertrio im Geiste (notes, tempo ideas, gestures and figurations, etc.) from the slow movement of Beethoven’s Geistertrio – the music that gave his trio this nickname. Out of this I have fashioned what I would consider to be a ‘reflection’ of the classical form: miniature movements with simple and transparent textures, few ideas and a certain neatness. The sonata form first movement is, at the moment at least, tacet.

Im Geiste means, in German, ‘in one’s mind’s eye’ or, more literally, ‘in spirit’, as well as ‘der Geist’ having the literal meaning of ‘ghost’. So Klaviertrio im Geiste means ‘Piano trio in spirit’. I thought it a fitting pun for the provenance of this piece.


“There’s an obsessiveness to Venables’ music, a determination to extract every last ounce of energy from a musical idea. The result can be visceral, incredibly direct. In its most distilled and elegant form this can be heard in the piano trio, where motives are developed with compelling economy, even to the point where the first movement is simply marked ‘Tacet.’” — Composition Today

“Klaviertrio im Geiste is a rather straightforward intervention on Beethoven’s eponymous trio. Over four movements (one of them silent), Venables uses pitch material from the Beethoven to create a serene miniature, faded yet lustrous.” — Gramophone Magazine

“From the outset, the magic happens with this reflection questioning the stylistic essence of Beethoven’s Ghost Trio in the light of the contemporary.” — DNA Magazine (machine translated from French)

“an Adagio whose material is reminiscent of the Messiaen of the Quartet for the End of Time…then the Scherzo is at times reminiscent of Pärt and the Rondo more of Cage, though the whole work already demonstrates Venables’ mastery of writing.” — AltaMusica (machine translated from French)

“Klaviertrio im Geist, an old piece (2010), is strictly instrumental, a rereading/epure of Beethoven’s Piano Trio Op.70 No.1, of which Venables wanted to capture the spirit (der Geist) if not the letter: only three movements (adagio, scherzo and rondo) and as many Beethovenian “gestures” (declamation, introversion, obstinacy) rendered with an extreme economy of means.” — Hémisphèreson (machine translated from French)


Klaviertrio im Geiste was commissioned by the Phoenix Piano Trio, with funds from the RVW Trust, to be performed by the Phoenix Piano Trio in several concerts alongside Beethoven’s Klaviertrio in D-Dur, op.70/1 “Geistertrio” (“Ghost” Trio).

I –[Tacet]
II – Adagio
III – Scherzo
IV – Rondo

Orchestration: piano, violin, cello

Duration: 12 minutes

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