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Name of Work

Schubert, Franz (1797-1828)
Trio No. 1 in B-flat Major for Piano, Violin and Cello, Op. 99, D. 898 (1992)

Allegro moderato
Andante un poco mosso
Scherzo: Allegro
Rondo: Allegro vivace


Nov 22, 1992

Jerry Grossman, Cello
Deborah Sobol, Piano
Joseph Genualdi, Viola

Nov 23, 1992

Jerry Grossman, Cello
Deborah Sobol, Piano
Joseph Genualdi, Viola

SCHUBERT - Trio No. 1 in B-flat Major for Piano, Violin and Cello, Op.99, D. 898

Composed in 1827

Franz Schubert (1797-1828) wrote no wind chamber music at all except for his two extended vocal scenes, "Auf dem Strom" (voice, piano, and horn) and "The Shepherd on the Rock" (voice, piano, and clarinet). Of the two dominant Classical-period chamber-music types, he concentrated mainly on the string quartet. Piano trios did not, apparently, attract his interest until later; he began composing quartets when he was still a schoolboy, but excepting an isolated trio movement that dates from 1812, his works for piano, violin, and cello were all undertaken in the year 1827. It's at least possible, of course, that other Schubert trios may have been lost.

"A glance at Schubert's trio," wrote Robert Schumann, "and all miserable human commotion vanishes; the world shines with new splendor.... [the Andante] is a happy dream, a rising and falling of genuine feeling.... [The two Schubert trios] bear little resemblance to each other. The Trio in E-Flat is more spirited, masculine, and dramatic; this one is more passive, lyric, and feminine....Time, though producing much that is beautiful, will not soon produce another Schubert."

These words were written in the middle 1830s, when the Piano Trio in B-Flat was first published. The companion E-Flat work, published a few years earlier, was performed at an all-Schubert concert given in March 1828 by the Vienna Friends of Music Society (the only such concert during Schubert's lifetime); although it is not known for absolute certain when the B-Flat trio was premiered, both were completed at about the same time, December 1827, and Schubert biographers believe he was referring to the B-Flat work when he wrote in late 1827 to a friend: "Recently a new trio of mine for pianoforte, violin, and violoncello was performed at Schuppanzigh's [concert series] and pleased very much. It was admirably executed by Booklet, Schuppanzigh and Linke."

The pianist was Karl Maria von Booklet, a talented young musician and a great admirer of Schubert's music. The cellist was Joseph Linke, who had premiered Beethoven's Op. 102 cello sonatas; the violinist was the famous and influential Ignaz Schuppanzigh, whose ensemble had premiered several of Beethoven's string quartets. Taken together with the all-Schubert concert in March of the following year, we can see that Schubert's music was definitely winning wider recognition, and that during the last years of life his reputation was no longer confined to a small circle of immediate friends - but that reputation was very soon to become a posthumous one.

The years 1827 and 1828 were also the time Schubert was working on his final song-cycle, "Die Winterreise," completing the "Great C Major" Symphony, and writing the three monumental piano sonatas numbered 958-960 in the Otto Deutsch catalogue. The piano trios share all the melodic genius and mature mastery of form and thematic integration revealed in those other, somewhat better-known final works. As Schumann points out, the trios are quite different in mood and tone, though 20th-century commentators would probably not contrast them in terms of male and female stereotypes. In reference to the B-Flat work, Schumann could have applied (but did not) a phrase he once used to describe the C Major Symphony, that of "heavenly length;" it is a trio built on a grand scale, nearly 40 minutes in length, containing four movements in common with Beethoven's "Archduke" Trio, not following the somewhat less expansive three-movement form characteristic of Haydn and Mozart trios. The opening "Allegro moderato" sets out a march-like principal theme and a song-like second one; in their development the composer calls for unusually strong dynamic accents, ranging up to triple forte. The "Andante un poco mosso" movement, the one Schumann called dream-like, reveals Schubert's fondness for modulating through a wide variety of key changes and through major-minor alternations. The sudden contrasts of dynamics are apparent once more, as they are in the Scherzo and in the rondo-finale. The principal theme of this "Allegro vivace" is subjected to variations and to a number of key changes, building to an intense climax in the "Presto" coda. The structure of the "Allegro vivace" does not follow the precise alternation of principal theme and episodes that would be dictated by Classical tradition, but Schubert's interest in this trio is not in conventionality of form; his emphasis throughout is on melody, on the juxtaposition and evolution of the lyrical themes for which he had so great a genius.

Program Notes by Andrea Lamoreax

Performed November 22 and 23, 1992

Performance Audio

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