Sunday, November 20, 2011

Tchaikovsky - Piano Trio 'In Memory Of A Great Artist'

Pyotr Tchaikovsky (1840 -1893)  refused to write a piano trio for his benefactor Nadezhda von Meck, saying in a letter to her in 1880,  "You ask why I have never written a trio. Forgive me, dear friend; I would do anything to give you pleasure, but this is beyond me ... I simply cannot endure the combination of piano with violin or cello. To my mind the timbre of these instruments will not blend..."

But upon the death of close friend and mentor Nicolai Rubinstein who had died in March of 1881, Tchaikovsky seems to have had a change of heart. He ended up writing a piano trio and subtitling it 'In Memory Of A Great Artist' in tribute to his friend.  It was the only piano trio he ever wrote.

The work went through several versions with the final version being completed in February 1882.  A private performance was held at the Moscow Conservatory on March 23, 1882, the one year anniversary of Nicolai Rubinstein's death, but Tchaikovsky was in Italy.  he heard the trio in another private performance in April, after which he made some revisions to the work.

The trio is in two proper movements, although the 2nd movement contains two distinct sections. For a chamber work it is rather long and takes about three quarters of an hour to perform. The piano part is some of the most difficult music Tchaikovsky wrote for the piano, including the piano concertos.

The first movement is full of dark, funereal music. The second movement is a set of variations that segues into a Finale that is some of the most tragic, emotional music ever written by Tchaikovsky, and for a composer known for his emotionally-charged music, that is saying quite a lot. This trio is one of my favorite chamber music pieces, but I must admit to not listening to it very often.  There is no other composer like Tchaikovsky for pure, raw emotion, and sometimes it is just too much to listen to.

Tchaikovsky's Piano Trio in A Minor ' In Memory Of A Great Artist ' :

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