Schubert was most well known in his lifetime for his songs and a few larger works. Most of his works were not played or heard by Schubert in his lifetime, but the Piano Trio No. 2 In E-flat Major was an exception as it was played at a private engagement party in January of 1828 for one of his friends shortly after its composition in November of 1827. The work was also published before Schubert's death in November of 1828.
The 2nd Piano Trio is like other of the last works of Schubert in that it is expanded in length. This is true no matter the genre of a particular late work. The Symphony In C Major lasts an hour, the Piano Sonata No. 21 In B-flat Major 40 minutes, as well as the 1st Piano Trio (which was written at about the same time as the 2nd Piano Trio) which lasts about 40 minutes. This lengthening of playing time is due at least in part to Schubert's remarkable gift of melody. He drew from an inexhaustible store of themes and melodies and used them in his later works where they were used in a musical texture that resulted in a longer time needed to work through all of his compositional expertise with them.
The 2nd Piano Trio is in 4 movements:
I. Allegro - The first movement begins with all three instruments stating a theme that outlines the E-flat major triad:
This first theme is elaborated on until a short section leads to the second theme. Musicologists differ as to the number of themes in the exposition, with some saying as many as six. Whether these themes are truly independent themes or not, there does seem to be a relationship between them. The exposition is repeated, which adds to the length of the movement but with such a wealth of thematic material, a repeat is most welcome. The development section modulates into keys far and wide but Schubert keeps everything coherent with the return of themes. The recapitulation continues the weaving of themes and Schubert ties up all the loose ends as the movement ends with a final flourish followed by a more quiet final statement.
II. Andante con moto - The quiet ending of the first movement leads perfectly to the second movement where the piano begins in C minor and the cello joins with a melancholy tune:
According to one of Schubert's friends, this theme is based on a Swedish folk song that Schubert heard, the title of which is 'Se solen sjunker' (The sun is down). The second theme is of a more gentle character for contrast, but this theme reaches two climaxes that makes the ear question its true gentleness. These two themes alternate until the funeral march-like opening theme ends the movement.
III. Scherzando. Allegro moderato - The theme of this movement begins in the piano and is imitated by the violin and cello. The trio is a more robust country dance that includes a reference to one of the themes of the first movement.
IV. Allegro moderato - A movement that has elements of both sonata form and rondo form as three themes are played. A development section is introduced by the return of the primary theme of the second movement in an altered guise that foreshadows the embracing of cyclic form by Berlioz and Liszt. It is played again by the cello with accompaniment by piano and pizzicato violin. The other three themes of the movement continue to be varied as the music moves to the end of the movement. The second movement theme enters one last time but remains in its minor key form but briefly until it shifts into the major mode. The music ends in a final short statement of the opening theme of the movement.