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Piano Trio in E minor, Op. 67, No.2 – by Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975)
Notturno in Eb for Piano Trio – by Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
Piano Trio in D minor, Op.49 – by Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)
Undoubtedly more than any other West Coast Chamber Music concert this season, this event offers the greatest contrast of repertoire covering a full spectrum of artistic and human expression. As an added dimension, our three poets, Christopher Levenson, Kate Braid and Barbara Nickel will intersperse the pieces by reading from their poetry, words inspired by music.
The Russian composer, Dmitri Shostakovich was one of the greatest and most important and influential composers of the 20th century, with an enormous oeuvre. He wrote the Piano Trio in E minor, Op.67 in 1944 in memory of his friend, Ivan Sollertinsky who was killed in a Nazi Death camp earlier that year. This work is one of the most tragic and moving pieces of all time. The first movement (Andante moderato) introduces its slow mournful tune on the violin, which then passes in turn to the cello and then the piano. The music eventually shifts to an intense fast march as of many footsteps. The second movement (Allegro con brio) bursts with a fast, tumultuous riot of notes, a message of mocking anxiety and madness. The third movement (Largo) is the heavy song of a broken heart played by the violin, then the cello accompanied by solemn chilly chords on the piano. The fourth movement (Allegretto) begins with the pizzicato dance-like footsteps of the strings accompanying a Jewish tune played in octaves on the piano. The music increases in wild brutal intensity and seems to hold all emotions of loss, heartache and fury within a wide expanse of sound. Ghostly dance footsteps appear again at the end. At the premiere of this work, after its concluding notes had died away, there was only a terrible quiet broken only by some people sobbing...
Franz Schubert’s music is some of the most performed music from the early 19th century. He wrote the short Notturno in Eb for Piano Trio in the autumn of 1827. There has been much speculation as to whether it was a rejected movement of another work, but in standing the test of time, it remains an independent short little work of great beauty and integrity. Its main theme recurs throughout with some variation, melodically revolving around the third note of the scale (as in other of his works) conveying a suspended feeling of truly sublime beauty and pathos. This music was used in the last scene of the film, Shall We Kiss?
Felix Mendelssohn finished the Piano Trio in D minor, Op.49 on September 23, 1839 and it was published the following year. It remains one of the most popular pieces of the Piano Trio oeuvre and is considered his greatest piece of chamber music along with the Octet. In the composing of this music, he took the advice of fellow composer, Ferdinand Hiller and he revised the piano part making it more florid and romantic and increasing the importance of its role. The first movement (Molto allegro ed agitato) presents beautiful sweeping lines and is lyrically most arresting. The second movement (Andante con moto tranquillo) offers a calm, peaceful and heartfelt melody first introduced on the piano before being joined by the strings. The writing here is quite similar to his many ‘Song Without Words’ for piano. The following third movement (Scherzo) is light and rhythmic with frenetic volleys of notes almost like elves running on tip toe. The final fourth movement (Finale) is the epitome of glorious romantic scoring with explosive virtuosic piano writing bringing the work to its triumphant conclusion.