Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Schubert - Piano Trio No. 1 In B-flat Major

Schubert wrote two piano trios in the last year of his life, neither of which were published or heard in public until after his death. It was the first compositions in the form since his last piano trio written when he was fifteen. Any of Schubert's music played during his lifetime was usually played at a 'Schubertaide', an informal impromptu party held in the home of a wealthy friend and admirer. The first trio was heard in a private house at the engagement party of one of his friends.

By the last year of his life, Schubert's daily routine usually consisted of composing in the morning, visiting and taking long walks in the afternoon, with evenings spent with his friends, sometimes at a Schubertaide, sometimes drinking wine and singing. Schubert was as a man possessed while he was composing. His moods could run from dark and depressing to wild and fun-loving. These wide fluctuations in mood are sometimes reflected in his music, especially in the last years of his short life when he suffered with the end stages of syphilis. The 1st piano Trio is somewhat of an exception, as the music is good-natured and cheerful, at least for the most part.

Schubert's 1st Piano Trio is in 4 movements:
I. Allegro moderato - The first movement consists of two themes, each of which unwind in the lengthy exposition, and are expounded upon in the also lengthy development section that is punctuated by changes in key and mood. This is the music of Schubert's last years that seemed to many to be overly long, but music the Robert Schumann labeled as 'of heavenly length'.  The themes have a final appearance in a coda.

II. Andante un poco mosso - The cello is center-stage at the start, with the violin and piano taking up the pleasant tune. The three instruments take turns repeating and commenting on the melody with Schubert keeping everything in balance in music of seamless beauty.

III.  Scherzo - Allegro -  The piano starts things off, with the violin and cello joining in a jaunty Ländler. The trio shifts gears and becomes a simple Waltz, after which the first dance repeats.

IV. Rondo- Allegro vivace -  A rondo that also has elements of the theme and variation form .

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