Sunday, July 24, 2016

Rachmaninoff - Trio Élégiaque No. 1 In G Minor

Sergei Rachmaninoff wrote two piano trios within a year of each other, and both were called Trio Élégiaque (elegiac, or mournful trio). The first was written in 1892 when Rachmaninoff was 19 years old. He wrote it in a three-day period, and he was the pianist at the premiere of the work a few days later.  The second trio was written in 1893 shortly after the death of Tchaikovsky, a composer Rachmaninoff admired. So the second trio is actually an elegy in remembrance of Tchaikovsky, but the first was written when Tchaikovsky was in good health the year before.

The first trio is in but one movement, and is modeled somewhat after Tchaikovsky's Piano Trio In A Minor written in 1882, which was written in memory of Tchaikovsky's deceased friend Nicolai Rubinstein. This work made a lasting impression on Rachmaninoff and influenced him greatly when he composed his own trios.

The work opens with the violin and cello slowly and softly playing a repetitive figure that gradually grows in intensity. The piano enters with the theme that dominates the work:


This theme goes through various changes in the twelve sections that make up the trio, and in the end is transformed into a funeral march, as the Tchaikovsky trio does.

Rachmaninoff was still a student when he composed this trio, but he already had the emotional intensity and sense of instrumental color that was to be a part of his future compositions.

On account of it being a student work or its short length (it takes about 15 minutes to perform),  Trio Élégiaque No. 1 In G Minor was not published in Rachmaninoff's lifetime. The first edition appeared in 1947, and the work has no opus number.

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