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Piano Trio No.2 in E flat D.929

Franz Schubert (b. 1797 - d. 1828)

Alina Ibragimova (photo credit: Sussie Ahlburg)

Alina Ibragimova (photo credit: Sussie Ahlburg)

Composer
Franz Schubert (b. 1797 - d. 1828)
Composition Year
1827
Work Movements
1. Allegro
2. Andante con moto
3. Scherzando - Allegro molto
4. Allegro
Artists
Alina Ibragimova [violin], Andreas Brantelid [cello], Cédric Tiberghien [piano]

Programme Note Writer:
© Francis Humphrys

When we come to the towering masterpieces of Schubert's maturity, the tragedy of his situation becomes almost unbearable. Like Mozart who also died in his early thirties, when we talk of their mature works, we mean compositions written in their late twenties. Beethoven was thirty when he wrote his first symphony and the Op.18 Quartets, while Brahms was forty when he finished his first quartet and forty-three when he was finally content with his first symphony. Schubert's oeuvre was massive for such a short life, nine hundred and sixty published works from songs to symphonies, from sonatas to operas and from dances to quartets. He built his reputation as a writer of exquisitely beautiful songs, but unfortunately this was held against him when he wanted to be taken seriously as a composer of symphonies and chamber music in the Beethoven tradition.

The two piano trios date from 1827 and may have been inspired by his friendship with a young pianist Karl Maria von Bocklet, the cellist Josef Linke and the renowned violinist Ignaz Schuppanzigh. Certainly they played the E flat Trio twice in public in the last year of Schubert's life. It was also the only work of Schubert's to be published outside Austria in his lifetime, by Probst in Leipzig. His negotiations with publishers had been arduous and he had reacted to comments that the work was too long by cutting two substantial chunks - nearly 100 bars - out of the last movement.

The first movement opens with a commanding theme of Beethovenian proportions and directness. Despite the opportunities this theme would seem to offer for development and elaboration, Schubert ignores its potential and concentrates instead on a cheerful melodic idea introduced almost as an afterthought that reappears insistently throughout the movement. The second subject is a poignant wisp of melody, lightly accompanied, that receives scant attention at its first appearance but returns to dominate the development. The recapitulation is built on a massive scale like the rest of the movement and it builds up an earth-shaking climax before we reach the coda.

The Andante is the heart of the work, combining power and poetry in a dramatically memorable way and even spreading its influence into the finale as well. Schubert borrowed the walking quaver chords and some melodic ideas from a Swedish folksong sung to him by a young Swedish tenor. Particularly powerful is a motto-like falling octave that accompanied the cry Farväl (Farewell) that Schubert makes a main feature of the movement. The walking chords are given first by the piano with the first theme in the cello, they then swap places before the violin picks up the Farewell motto. This eventually forms the core of two terrifying outbursts that hurl us unprepared into Schubert's bitter world of inner torment and in the process changes the dramatic possibilities of the piano trio for ever. The coda in a slower tempo provides one of those moments of heartbreaking poignancy as he sings out Farewell one last time.

The third movement is marked scherzando but Schubert also describes it as a minuet. It begins as an exact canon with the two lines imitating each other at three beats distance until he introduces other voices and eventually the canon is dismissed in favour of light-hearted interplay. The Trio opens as a very heavy-footed peasant dance, but it is lightened by a more graceful second idea when the dance is suddenly unable to decide how to continue.

Posterity on the whole agrees with Schubert's publisher about the cuts in this last movement, though Schubert must have made some of them with a heavy heart. The finale begins amiably like an unassuming rondo in 6/8 and picks up a captivating second theme with exquisitely delicate scoring, which gradually increases its momentum. Before the development Schubert comes up with a startling innovation, a reprise of the slow movement's main theme transformed into 6/8 time and tempo. This extraordinary stroke is repeated in the coda with a wonderfully transfigured return of the slow movement theme, it is one of those moments when the heavens seem to open.

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Piano Trio No.2 in E flat D.929

Composer: Franz Schubert (b. 1797 - d. 1828)
Performance date: Tuesday 1st July 2014
Venue: Bantry House Library, Bantry, Co. Cork, Ireland,

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Composer Franz Schubert (b. 1797 - d. 1828)
Work Title Piano Trio No.2 in E flat D.929
Composition Year 1827
Work Movements 1. Allegro
2. Andante con moto
3. Scherzando - Allegro molto
4. Allegro
Artist(s) Alina Ibragimova [violin], Andreas Brantelid [cello], Cédric Tiberghien [piano]
Performance Date Tuesday 1st July 2014
Performance Venue Bantry House Library, Bantry, Co. Cork, Ireland,
Event Late Night Concert
Duration 00:47:36
Recording Engineer Richard McCullough, RTE
Instrumentation Category Piano trio
Instrumentation vn, vc, pf
Programme Note Writer © Francis Humphrys

When we come to the towering masterpieces of Schubert's maturity, the tragedy of his situation becomes almost unbearable. Like Mozart who also died in his early thirties, when we talk of their mature works, we mean compositions written in their late twenties. Beethoven was thirty when he wrote his first symphony and the Op.18 Quartets, while Brahms was forty when he finished his first quartet and forty-three when he was finally content with his first symphony. Schubert's oeuvre was massive for such a short life, nine hundred and sixty published works from songs to symphonies, from sonatas to operas and from dances to quartets. He built his reputation as a writer of exquisitely beautiful songs, but unfortunately this was held against him when he wanted to be taken seriously as a composer of symphonies and chamber music in the Beethoven tradition.

The two piano trios date from 1827 and may have been inspired by his friendship with a young pianist Karl Maria von Bocklet, the cellist Josef Linke and the renowned violinist Ignaz Schuppanzigh. Certainly they played the E flat Trio twice in public in the last year of Schubert's life. It was also the only work of Schubert's to be published outside Austria in his lifetime, by Probst in Leipzig. His negotiations with publishers had been arduous and he had reacted to comments that the work was too long by cutting two substantial chunks - nearly 100 bars - out of the last movement.

The first movement opens with a commanding theme of Beethovenian proportions and directness. Despite the opportunities this theme would seem to offer for development and elaboration, Schubert ignores its potential and concentrates instead on a cheerful melodic idea introduced almost as an afterthought that reappears insistently throughout the movement. The second subject is a poignant wisp of melody, lightly accompanied, that receives scant attention at its first appearance but returns to dominate the development. The recapitulation is built on a massive scale like the rest of the movement and it builds up an earth-shaking climax before we reach the coda.

The Andante is the heart of the work, combining power and poetry in a dramatically memorable way and even spreading its influence into the finale as well. Schubert borrowed the walking quaver chords and some melodic ideas from a Swedish folksong sung to him by a young Swedish tenor. Particularly powerful is a motto-like falling octave that accompanied the cry Farväl (Farewell) that Schubert makes a main feature of the movement. The walking chords are given first by the piano with the first theme in the cello, they then swap places before the violin picks up the Farewell motto. This eventually forms the core of two terrifying outbursts that hurl us unprepared into Schubert's bitter world of inner torment and in the process changes the dramatic possibilities of the piano trio for ever. The coda in a slower tempo provides one of those moments of heartbreaking poignancy as he sings out Farewell one last time.

The third movement is marked scherzando but Schubert also describes it as a minuet. It begins as an exact canon with the two lines imitating each other at three beats distance until he introduces other voices and eventually the canon is dismissed in favour of light-hearted interplay. The Trio opens as a very heavy-footed peasant dance, but it is lightened by a more graceful second idea when the dance is suddenly unable to decide how to continue.

Posterity on the whole agrees with Schubert's publisher about the cuts in this last movement, though Schubert must have made some of them with a heavy heart. The finale begins amiably like an unassuming rondo in 6/8 and picks up a captivating second theme with exquisitely delicate scoring, which gradually increases its momentum. Before the development Schubert comes up with a startling innovation, a reprise of the slow movement's main theme transformed into 6/8 time and tempo. This extraordinary stroke is repeated in the coda with a wonderfully transfigured return of the slow movement theme, it is one of those moments when the heavens seem to open.