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Piano Trio in D minor Op.120

Gabriel Fauré (b. 1845 - d. 1924)

Pieter Wispelwey

Pieter Wispelwey

Composer
Gabriel Fauré (b. 1845 - d. 1924)
Composition Year
1922-3
Work Movements
1. Allegro, ma non troppo
2. Andantino
3. Allegro vivo
Artists
Pieter Wiespelwey [cello], Elina Vähäla [violin], Cédric Tiberghien [piano]

Programme Note Writer:
© Francis Humphrys

Between the end of World War 1 and his death in 1924, which is to say between the ages of 73 and 79, Gabriel Fauré composed six major chamber works - the Second Violin Sonata, both Cello Sonatas, the Second Piano Quintet, his only String Quartet and this Piano Trio. The latter is almost the last of this outburst of masterpieces. He wrote the Andantino in the summer of 1922, inspired by the sight of the Pyrenees, completing the other movements in Paris by the spring of 1923. All this activity is even more astonishing as he was half-blind and almost completely deaf.

Despite his health, no shadows cloud this memorable opening movement, whose mesmerising beauty disguises its classic sonata form structure. The economy and coherence of the two main themes convey an impression of total unity, while Fauré's harmonic genius generates the idea of unlimited freedom, culminating in the climactic coda.

The Andantino is one of the most beguiling slow movements in all music, an inspired weaving and interweaving of its two main ideas. The first theme, announced by the violin and answered by the cello, opens this dialogue, to which the piano soon adds another theme, one that gives rise to much Fauréan chromaticism. A slow ascending theme, led by the keyboard, develops into a passionate central section. The movement ends serenely but we know that theme will haunt us for nights to come.

After this the turbulence of the Allegro vivo finale comes as a surprise. The opening six-bar theme in string octaves is immediately answered by a strongly contrasting theme, again of six bars, from the piano, which is like an irregularly accented rustic dance. Indeed we quickly realise that the movement is taking the form of a joyful dance, sometimes losing its way in harmonic confusion or wildly unpredictable rhythms, but never endangering its radiant D major apotheosis. Fauré also introduces a third theme, again sharply accented, which is treated canonically by the strings. This and the keyboard answer to it feature prominently in the development and recapitulation, where the three themes reappear in reverse order. The vigour and strength of this music make a wonderfully positive response to the debilitating effects of illness and old age. As one perceptive critic asked: Where ever will all this lead us when he is a hundred years old? 

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Piano Trio in D minor Op.120

Composer: Gabriel Fauré (b. 1845 - d. 1924)
Performance date: Wednesday 6th July 2016
Venue: Bantry House Library, Bantry, Co. Cork, Ireland,

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Composer Gabriel Fauré (b. 1845 - d. 1924)
Work Title Piano Trio in D minor Op.120
Composition Year 1922-3
Work Movements 1. Allegro, ma non troppo
2. Andantino
3. Allegro vivo
Artist(s) Pieter Wiespelwey [cello], Elina Vähäla [violin], Cédric Tiberghien [piano]
Performance Date Wednesday 6th July 2016
Performance Venue Bantry House Library, Bantry, Co. Cork, Ireland,
Event Crespo Series
Duration 00:20:40
Recording Engineer Richard McCullough, RTÉ lyric fm
Instrumentation Category Trio
Instrumentation vn, vc, pf
Programme Note Writer © Francis Humphrys

Between the end of World War 1 and his death in 1924, which is to say between the ages of 73 and 79, Gabriel Fauré composed six major chamber works - the Second Violin Sonata, both Cello Sonatas, the Second Piano Quintet, his only String Quartet and this Piano Trio. The latter is almost the last of this outburst of masterpieces. He wrote the Andantino in the summer of 1922, inspired by the sight of the Pyrenees, completing the other movements in Paris by the spring of 1923. All this activity is even more astonishing as he was half-blind and almost completely deaf.

Despite his health, no shadows cloud this memorable opening movement, whose mesmerising beauty disguises its classic sonata form structure. The economy and coherence of the two main themes convey an impression of total unity, while Fauré's harmonic genius generates the idea of unlimited freedom, culminating in the climactic coda.

The Andantino is one of the most beguiling slow movements in all music, an inspired weaving and interweaving of its two main ideas. The first theme, announced by the violin and answered by the cello, opens this dialogue, to which the piano soon adds another theme, one that gives rise to much Fauréan chromaticism. A slow ascending theme, led by the keyboard, develops into a passionate central section. The movement ends serenely but we know that theme will haunt us for nights to come.

After this the turbulence of the Allegro vivo finale comes as a surprise. The opening six-bar theme in string octaves is immediately answered by a strongly contrasting theme, again of six bars, from the piano, which is like an irregularly accented rustic dance. Indeed we quickly realise that the movement is taking the form of a joyful dance, sometimes losing its way in harmonic confusion or wildly unpredictable rhythms, but never endangering its radiant D major apotheosis. Fauré also introduces a third theme, again sharply accented, which is treated canonically by the strings. This and the keyboard answer to it feature prominently in the development and recapitulation, where the three themes reappear in reverse order. The vigour and strength of this music make a wonderfully positive response to the debilitating effects of illness and old age. As one perceptive critic asked: Where ever will all this lead us when he is a hundred years old?