Trio Gaspard

Upper Chapel, Sheffield
Thursday 25 January 2024, 7.00pm

£14 UC, DLA or PIP
£5 Under 35s & Students

Past Event

HAYDN Piano Trio in A, Hob.XV:9 (13’)
BRAHMS Piano Trio No.2 (29’)
HAYDN Piano Trio in G minor, Hob.XV:1 (14’)
BEAMISH ‘TRANCE’ for piano trio (new work for Trio Gaspard’s Haydn Project) (c.10’)
LISZT Hungarian Rhapsody No.9 ‘Carnival in Pest(10’) 

Trio Gaspard comprises three virtuoso musicians from Germany, Greece and the UK, who came together as students and have now established themselves as a major presence in classical concert halls and festivals throughout Europe. Having signed to the Chandos label, they are now recording all of Haydn’s piano trios, and their concert will showcase two of his masterpieces alongside the intense drama of Schumann and Liszt, plus a recent work from Sally Beamish, one of the UK’s best-known living composers. 

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View the brochure for our Sheffield 2024 concerts online here or download it below.


HAYDN Joseph, Piano Trio in A, Hob.XV:9

Haydn composed this trio in 1785 – the year when he also wrote the ‘Paris’ Symphonies. It was first published in February 1786 by the London firm of William Forster as one of Three Sonatas for the Harpsichord or Piano-Forte with an Accompaniment for a Violin & Violoncello and further editions appeared soon afterwards in Germany and Austria. It is cast in two movements, both in A major. The first is a spacious Adagio in which Haydn can be heard developing the notion of an ‘accompanied’ piano sonata into music where the string parts begin to emerge as more equal partners. Near the end of the movement, Haydn inserts a short cadenza-like passage before the music winds down to a gentle close. The second movement is fast and florid, with its fair share of harmonic quirks, as well as Haydn’s endless melodic invention and his irresistible flair for generating energetic momentum.  


© Nigel Simeone 

BRAHMS Johannes, Piano Trio No.2

Brahms composed the first movement of the C major Piano Trio at Bad Ischl in Austria’s Salzkammergut region in June 1880. It was always one of the composer’s favourite spots, where he was able to compose in peace. The other works to emerge from the 1880 visit were Brahms’s two concert overtures: the Academic Festival Overture and the Tragic Overture, and when he returned in 1882, his summer produced not only the rest of the C major Trio, but also the String Quintet Op.88 and the Song of the Fates Op.89 for chorus and orchestra. 

Brahms’s earlier piano trio (in B major, Op.8) was a large-scale and rhapsodic work from his early years (to which he returned in 1889, making extensive revisions), but the C major Trio shows the composer in a much more concise frame of mind. The striding opening theme – first heard in octaves on the violin and cello – has a strong sense of rhythmic energy that is used to propel much of the first movement. The ‘Andante con moto’ similarly opens with a theme in octaves on the strings, but this time it’s a plangent melody in the minor which becomes almost defiant at the movement’s climax. The ghostly ‘Scherzo’ is complemented by a radiant swaying theme in the central Trio section. The main theme of the finale is marked by the use of a sharpened fourth note of the scale (F sharp in C major) that gives it a particular character, and this memorable tune drives the movement to a thrilling conclusion. 

The first performances were given in Cologne and Frankfurt am Main in December 1882, with Brahms himself at the piano in the Frankfurt concert.  


© Nigel Simeone 

HAYDN Joseph, Piano Trio in G minor, Hob.XV:1

There’s some debate around the year in which Haydn composed this piano trio. It was certainly in existence by 1766 but it’s likely to date back as early as 1760, making it one of his very first piano trios, a form that Haydn pioneered and eventually completely mastered. If it was composed on the earlier date, Haydn would have still been in his twenties and yet to make his life-changing move to the Palace of Esterháza. Around that time, he was also composing his first symphonies and string quartets, and Haydn’s early style owed much to C.P.E. Bachthat influence is prevalent throughout these three pocket-sized movements. But it’s apparent that Haydn already understood the real potential of combining a piano, violin and cello, and his ability to pack such a short piece of music with so many ideas, is a premonition of how he would develop the piano trio with extraordinary genius throughout the rest of his life. 

BEAMISH Sally, Trance

This piece was commissioned by the Trio Gaspard to sit alongside Haydn’s piano trios. The sound of these wonderful players was in my head as I wrote. Haydn’s trios famously give a pretty subordinate role to the cello, so my first idea was to make the cello a soloist in my piece. My relationship with Haydn’s F sharp minor trio goes back to childhood, when my mother, violinist Ursula Snow, performed it many times with her trio. I must have heard hours of rehearsal.  This led me to think of my mother, and how much I miss her, and feel I understand her better as I get older. This short piece is dedicated to her memory.  


I took F sharp as my starting point, and threaded in occasional notes taken from Haydn’s Andante cantabile movement. The harmonies, which form a repeated chaconne-like pattern in the piano part, are also derived from the Haydn, but in my own way, and not necessarily audible to the listener. The music is like a series of fragmented memories; the violin at first ghost-like, while the cello has an improvisatory line; the violin then drawing the cello into its falling 5th motif, while the piano has the solo line. The three instruments become equal as the music comes to a head, before dissolving into a quiet final statement of the chord sequence.  


The melancholic nature of Haydn’s trio affected my approach, combined with memories of my mother and her gradual disappearance into dementia. The title, Trance, indicates a meditative state, but also a ‘passageway’, or departure – the confusing journey of my relationship with my mother as her personality shifted, changed and faded. 


Trance was commissioned by the Trio Gaspard, and first performed at the West Cork Festival on 28th June, 2023. 

© Sally Beamish 

LISZT Franz, Hungarian Rhapsody No.9 ‘Carnival in Pest’

Liszt composed his Carnival in Pest in 1847 for solo piano, the ninth of his Hungarian Rhapsodies in which he aimed to compose virtuoso works in which he could incorporate traditional music from his homeland. Carnival in Pest is dedicated to the Brno-born violinist Heinrich Wilhelm Ernst, It was therefore a particularly appropriate idea for Liszt to compose a version for piano trio which includes a flamboyant violin part – in fact all three instruments are given some dazzling writing. 

Dating from 1848, the autograph manuscript of the trio version (in the collection of the Juilliard School in New York) is covered in revisions and deletions, suggesting that Liszt rethought much of the work when he made this transcription. It is a piece that is largely celebratory in mood and Liszt presents a succession of stirring Hungarian Gypsy themes with frequent changes of tempo, interspersed with cadenzas. It culminates in a triumphant reprise of the opening idea on the strings, in octaves, followed by a dizzying coda. It is unclear why Liszt did not publish the trio version during his lifetime, but it eventually appeared posthumously in 1892. 

© Nigel Simeone 

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