SCHUMANN Robert, Piano Trio No 2 in F Op.80
Schumann’s Second Piano Trio was initially sketched in 1847, while he was still finishing the Op. 63 Trio, but it was not completed until nearly two years later, in April 1849. Written in the pastoral key of F major, it is a very different work from its much darker and more dramatic predecessor. The reason for this is immensely touching: when Schumann began work, it was the tenth anniversary of his secret engagement to Clara, and the Trio is full of allusions to their first love. As Joan Chisell wrote: ‘no further guesses are needed as to why the first two movements are threaded with the opening phrase (“In the depths of my heart I keep a radiant image of you”) of his love-song Intermezzo (from the Eichendorff Liederkreis Op. 39) written for Clara just before their eventual long-delayed marriage in 1840.’ The first movement, in quick triple time, is both lively and ardently lyrical, while the song-like slow movement is a radiant outpouring of adoration. The third movement Scherzo is in a minor key, gentle and wistful. After this nostalgic interlude, the finale ends the work in a state of almost untroubled elation. For Clara Schumann this piece remained a great favourite among her husband’s works – partly, no doubt, because of its intimate private messages, but also because it shows Schumann at his most effortlessly inventive. The first performance was given in their house on 29 April 1849, in a private concert that also included the première of Schumann’s Spanisches Liederspiel for four solo voices and piano, and Clara subsequently played it on many occasions.
Nigel Simeone © 2010