FAURÉ Gabriel, Piano Trio Op.120

1. Allegro ma non troppo
2. Andantino
3. Allegro vivo

 

Fauré retired as Director of the Paris Conservatoire in 1920, at the age of 75. Though he was increasingly troubled by a kind of deafness that distorted musical sounds, he produced several late works that demonstrate a wonderful economy and concentration: the Second Piano Quintet, Second Cello Sonata and the song cycle L’Horizon chimérique were completed in 1921, and his only String Quartet was to occupy him from 1923 until just before he died the following year. The Piano Trio was started in his favourite retreat of Annecy-le-Vieux in August 1922 and his original idea was to write it for clarinet, cello and piano but he soon settled on having a violin as the top part. Progress was slow. Fauré wrote to his wife: ‘I can’t work for long stretches of time. My worst problem is perpetual tiredness.’ There’s no sense of fatigue in this work, partly because Fauré took his time. The slow movement was the first to be completed, and the outer movements of the Trio were finished by February 1923. The first performance was given on 12 May 1923 at a concert of the Société Nationale de Musique by Fauré was too ill to attend. He did hear a performance the following year given by the celebrated trio of Alfred Cortot, Jacques Thibaud and Pablo Casals. The music demonstrates Fauré at his most subtle harmonically and rhythmically in the first movement, at his most elegantly restrained in the slow movement, and at his most vigorous in the finale (the resemblance between its main theme and ‘Vesti la giubba’ from Pagliacci – an opera Fauré particularly disliked – was, according to Fauré himself, entirely accidental).

 

Nigel Simeone

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