Piano Trio in E flat op 86 no. 3 (Hob. XV no. 29) Haydn
Poco allegretto (1732 – 1809)
Andantino et innocentamente
Finale Allemande: presto assai
The Haydn piano trios are unusual in that of 31 only 4 were written before 1790, and his last 14 trios belong to the ripest phase of his instrumental composition. During his very successful second visit to London in 1795, Haydn composed several piano trios to meet the demands of London publishers. On his return to Vienna he composed a further set of three, of which tonight’s work is one. All three were dedicated to the brilliant German-born pianist, Therese Bartolozzi née Jansen, pupil of Clementi and married to the son of engraver Francesco Bartolozzi. Haydn had met her in London, was impressed by her prowess as a pianist, and also dedicated his last three piano sonatas to her. Less well-known and less mould-breaking than the string quartets, the trios nevertheless contain some fine music. The importance of the piano part is acknowledged in their title as Sonatas for pianoforte with accompaniment of violin and cello. The opening movement is dominated by a dotted theme and much syncopation. There is a charming section in the minor, before it returns to the original theme and key. The piano alone states the theme of the second movement, which is taken up by the strings, and then treated in canon. It ends with a suspension, before the jolly romp of the last movement dances to a conclusion.
Last ACMC Performance: the Kungsbacka Trio, November 2008
Piano Trio in E op. 18 Hans Gál
Tranquillo ma con moto (1890 – 1987)
Adagio mesto – Allegro
In March 2016, ACMC celebrated the music of Hans Gál in a mini-festival of two concerts. We continue this theme tonight with the piano trio, which was written in 1923, while Gál was still in Austria where he had been born, well before his flight to the UK following the rise of the Nazis. He was highly regarded by Sir Donald Tovey, who appointed him to Edinburgh University, where he taught for many years. At the time of the piano trio’s composition, Gál’s career was in the ascendency as he had recently been appointed as a Lecturer in Music Theory at the University of Vienna (a position earlier held by Anton Bruckner). The work displays his warm-hearted lyricism, and his lush romanticism, a far cry from the so-called Viennese school of Schoenberg and Webern.
The first movement is unusual in that it works with three groups of themes, each in a different tempo, and in the recapitulation alters the order in which they are presented. The second movement is a straightforward scherzo and trio, with the scherzo marked violento (violently), although to today’s ears this seems a little overdone! The trio section, though, shows Gal at his most sweet. The final movement begins with a slow introduction (mestomeans sad or melancholy). This is followed by a cheeky allegro, and the two alternate, the allegro faster each time, up to the virtuosic coda.
First ACMC Performance
Tea, coffee or juice, and biscuits are available for £1
Piano Trio in B flat op. 97 Beethoven
Allegro moderato (1770 – 1827)
Andante cantabile ma però con moto – poco più adagio
While Haydn only turned his hand to piano trios towards the end of his life, reflecting the development of the piano from the original harpsichord, and then the fortepiano, Beethoven arrived in Vienna from Bonn in 1792 with his op.1 consisting of three such trios. He later returned to the medium with the two trios op.70, followed in 1811 by op. 97, generally considered to be one of the high points of the repertoire, and Beethoven’s supreme achievement for piano and strings.
In comparison with the Haydn trios, it is noticeable how the three instruments are treated as a unified whole, both harmonically and melodically. This effect is further enhanced by the writing for the violin which is nearly all in its lower registers, so that the piano seems to enclose the string parts. The themes in the first two and the last movement are, perhaps unconsciously, related and this also gives the work a satisfying unity. The first movement has a noble breadth, beginning with a flowing theme reminiscent of the quartet op. 59 no 1. The development includes magical contrasts between pizzicatostrings, and piano trills. The second movement, of form scherzo – trio – scherzo – trio – scherzo – coda, starts with a spare idea stated by the strings alone. The trio sections are based on two contrasting ideas, a chromatic little fugato, and a dashing waltz. The slow movement is an air with variations, each successive variation in shorter notes, until the final warmly romantic return of the original theme. As the movement dies away, a subtle key change leads straight into the chirpy theme of the final rondo. Beethoven enjoys himself with syncopation and cross-rhythms before the final appearance of the theme, presto, in 6/8 time.
The first public performance was given in 1814 with Beethoven himself on the piano. Spohr, the violinist, was present and sadly reported that in his increasing deafness Beethoven pounded the forte passages until the strings jangled, while the piano sections were so soft that the sense of the music was lost. Not a problem tonight!
Last ACMC Performance: the Fujita Trio, December 2005