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8.550747 - BRAHMS: Piano Trio No. 3 / Trio in A Major

Johannes Brahms (1833 - 1897)

Johannes Brahms (1833 - 1897)

Piano Trios Vol. 2

Piano Trio No.3 in C Minor, Op. 101

Piano Trio in A Major, Op. posth.


Johannes Brahms was born on 7th May 1833 in the Gangeviertel district of Hamburg, the son of a double-bass player and his wife, a seamstress seventeen years her husband's senior. It was intended that the boy should follow his father's trade and to this end he was taught the violin and cello, but his interest in the piano prevailed, enabling him to supplement the family income by playing in dockside taverns, while taking valuable lessons from Eduard Marxsen.


In 1853 Brahms embarked on a concert tour with the Hungarian violinist Eduard

Remenyi, during the course of which he visited Liszt in Weimar, to no effect, and struck up a friendship with the violinist Joseph Joachim, through whose agency he met the Schumanns, established now in Dusseldorf. The connection was an important one. Schumann was impressed enough by the compositions of his own

Brahms played to him to hail him as the long-awaited successor to Beethoven.

Schumann's subsequent break-down in February 1854 and ensuing insanity brought Brahms back to Dusseldorf to help Clara Schumann and her young family. The relationship with Clara Schumann, one of the most distinguished pianists of the time, lasted until her death in 1896.


It was not until 1862, after a happy period that had brought him a temporary position at the court of Detmold as a conductor and piano teacher, that Brahms visited Vienna, giving concerts there and meeting the important critic Eduard

Hanslick, who was to prove a doughty champion, pitting Brahms against Wagner and

Liszt as a composer of abstract music, as opposed to the music-drama of Wagner and the symphonic poems of Liszt, with their extra-musical associations. Brahms finally took up permanent residence in Vienna in 1869, greeted by many as the real successor to Beethoven, particularly after his first symphony, and winning a similar position in popular esteem and similar tolerance for his notorious lack of tact. He died in 1897.


Summer holidays away from Vienna afforded Brahms a chance to compose in pleasant surroundings without the interruptions inevitable in the city. In 1886 he spent the summer in Switzerland at Hofstetten, near Thun, where he rented a villa overlooking the lake. Here he wrote his second violin sonata and second cello sonata, and in the same summer his third piano trio, the Trio in C minor, Opus 101. It was performed in Vienna in December by the composer, with the violinist Hubay and the cellist Popper. The first movement opens with strong energy, its intense principal subject followed by a subsidiary theme of equal intensity, marked Forte ma cantando, with violin and cello singing the theme together. The development combines both subjects, moving, in its course, to the unexpected key of C sharp minor and followed by a succinct recapitulation and coda. The violin and cello are muted as the Scherzo opens, with a central Trio section in F minor, where agitato piano chords are accompanied by plucked ascending arpeggios from the strings. Violin and cello start the C major slow movement with its curiously irregular rhythm, the former presenting the principal theme, then taken up by the piano, which alternates with the string instruments. Further rhythmic changes mark the central section of the movement, before the return of the principal theme. The last movement starts with a vigorous return to the minor mode in a principal theme offered by the violin, relaxing into a secondary theme, material briefly developed before the return of the first theme. A repetition of the second theme leads gradually to the brighter key of C major, in which the movement swells to a conclusion.


The Piano Trio in A major attributed to Brahms was published in 1938. A manuscript, in the hand of an unknown copyist, was found in 1924 by Ernst Bucken of Cologne University among the papers of Dr. Erich Priegerof Bonn, where Brahms had spent part of the summer of 1853. The title page was missing, but from internal evidence it was suggested that the Trio was the work of Brahms, partly because of general similarities with the Opus 8 Piano Trio of the same period and partly because of the composer's known habit of writing works in pairs. There has been a marked tendency to write off the A major Trio as spurious and those who believe in the authenticity of the work have not been helped by the disappearance of the autograph. The date of copying seems to have been in the 1860s, but the date of composition in the previous decade. If this is, as many serious scholars now think, the work of Brahms, then it may be dated to 1853 or possibly to a few years later, principally on stylistic grounds rather than on the chance of its discovery among papers from Bonn.


The Moderato first movement of the A major Piano Trio allows the piano the first subject, leading to a second subject group in similar vein and a central development of this material as it has already appeared. The recapitulation is followed by a coda that makes imaginative use of earlier elements in the movement. There is an F sharp minor Scherzo, with relaxation in a gentler B major Trio, that makes a brief re-appearance in part in the repeated Scherzo. The piano declares the principal theme of the D major slow movement, based on this and on a secondary theme that suggests the rhythm of a slow march. The work ends with a vigorous Presto, its thematic material allowing an element of contrapuntal treatment, evidence of his teacher Marxsen's influence. The movement is in tripartite sonata form, with a second subject suggesting the Hungarian music of Brahms's early colleague and companion on his first concert tour, the violinist Remenyi, but finally dominated by its principal theme, the basis of the final coda.




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