TCHAIKOVSKY Piotr, Piano Trio in A minor Op.50

Pezzo elegiaco (Moderato assai. Allegro giusto) 
Tema con variazioni
Andante con moto
Finale e coda 

Tchaikovsky’s Piano Trio is subtitled ‘to the memory of a great artist’: a memorial to the composer’s friend and mentor Nicolai Rubinstein who died in 1881. The choice of ensemble for this piece in his memory was surprising since a year earlier Tchaikovsky had told his patron Nazdezhda von Meck, that “to my ears the acoustic combination of piano with violin or cello solo is completely incompatible. In this sonority the instruments seem to repel one another, and I assure you that any kind of trio or sonata with piano or cello is absolute torture for me.” Clearly he changed his mind, since he started work on a trio that was conceived on a positively epic scale. A year later he completed the work in Rome on 9 February 1882. 

It is an expansive lamentation in two long movements. The first, ‘Elegiac piece’, is a large sonata-form that opens with the theme that is to dominate the whole work. The second movement is an extended set of variations on a folk tune. Each of the variations is a kind of character piece, by turns elegant, charming, robustly energetic and darkly moving – at the close the music returns to a mood of despair as the opening theme returns in octaves on the violin and cello before its final transformation into a funeral march.  

© Nigel Simeone 


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