Arthur Foote

Arthur Foote (1853-1937)

Nationality: American
Born: March 5, 1853, Salem, MA Died: April 4, 1937, Boston, MA (age 84)

Piano Trio No. 2 in B-flat major, Op. 65

(for violin, cello and piano)
7:32 I. Allegro giocoso
7:35 II. Tranquillo
5:51 III. Allegro molto
Duration: 21 minutes (approximately)
Composed: 1907-1908 (age 53-55)
Published: 1909 (age 55-56)
2 recordings, 4 videos
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Joseph Silverstein, Jules Eskin, Virginia Eskin
Arden Trio
I. Allegro giocoso
Arden Trio
II. Tranquillo
Arden Trio
III. Allegro molto
From Kai Christiansen

Arthur Foote, 1853-1936

Piano Trio No. 2 in B-flat Major, Op. 65, 1908

Arthur FooteDespite a recent revival through a number of recordings by Naxos, the American composer Arthur Foote, though well respected in his time, has largely been forgotten. Born in 1853, Foote would have been old enough to be the father of Charles Ives, the grandfather of Aaron Copland. Two facts make Arthur Foote a noteworthy American composer: he was the first classical composer wholly trained within the United States (vs. travelling to Europe), and, he was the first to earn an MA in music from any American institution, in his case, Harvard. Foote made a good living as a professional musician by playing organ, teaching piano and composing, spending his life in Boston close to Harvard where he enjoyed a variety of fruitful associations. Foote composed songs, anthems, choral music, and several orchestral pieces, but he most outstanding achievement was his admirable corpus of chamber music comprising three string quartets, a piano quartet and quintet and two piano trios among other works. In his chamber works in particular, one finds finely-crafted works in a mid-19th century Romantic style showing the influence of Mendelssohn, Schumann and Dvořák while displaying Foote's own genuine talents for melody, color and narrative form.

Regardless, Foote's reputation largely faded with time for three primary reasons. First, during his lifetime, American composers of "classical music" had yet to taken seriously. Second, Foote wrote in a European style, no more "American" than Dvořák had done decades earlier. Finally, this style was swiftly becoming old-fashioned, overshadowed by the avant-garde comprising Debussy, Schoenberg, Stravinsky, Bartók and more. Foote became a historical relic in his own time. Despite this tale often told in the history of art, Foote's music is well worth discovering, enjoying and appreciating, particularly to the pride of American music lovers.

Foote composed his second piano trio in 1908 and it is probably his most celebrated work to date. A three-movement work in a general fast-slow-fast design, it dances, sings and engages with winning melodies, vital rhythms, artful scoring and genuine affect. The opening movement pursues a fluid, seamless sonata form featuring three main themes. The first is a jocular lilting dance, the second in a folk-tinged minor-mode that to some suggests the influence of Native American music. The second movement is serene, poised and noble turning plaintive in the middle section of the three-part form where peace and sorrow combine in the manner of a classic elegy. The finale starts with a stormy bustle, unsettling and turbulent and slowly makes its way back to the tonic key like the sun emerging from the clouds. The music literally makes its way home again as the jocular dance theme from the very beginning re-appears, a familiar, friendly face waiting at the end of a journey.

© Kai Christiansen Used by permission. All rights reserved.

From Edition Silvertrust

Arthur FooteIf Arthur Foote's his name is not entirely unknown, it is fair to say that his music is. This is a shame, especially as far as chamber musicians are concerned. Foote’s chamber music is first rate, deserving of regular public performance. Arthur Foote (1853-1937) certainly was the equal of nearly any of his European contemporaries, but the fact that he was an American, at a time when American composers were not generally taken seriously, was without doubt an insurmountable obstacle to his achieving the reputation he deserved. Foote was born in Salem, Massachusetts and was the first important American composer trained entirely in America. His main teacher was John Knowles Paine (1839-1906), from whom Foote gained an admiration for and was primarily influenced by the leading Central European Romantic composers of the day, such as Mendelssohn, Schumann, Dvorak and Brahms.

Piano Trio No.2 was composed in 1909. Foote was at the height of his career. A great deal musically had happened since he had written his First Piano Trio in 1884. Romanticism and traditional tonality had moved well beyond Brahms. While clearly still in the Romantic camp, Foote shows that he had moved with the times. His harmonic and melodic language had expanded and developed as did his command of instrumental color . The opening movement, Allegro giocoso, begins in a gripping, bravura fashion. The rhythms used in the development are fresh and unusual. The attractive second theme has a native American flavor to it. The central and second movement, a relaxed Tranquillo, begins expansively with a lyrical and highly romantic melody in the cello. The second theme, brought by the violin compliments this and leads to a wonderful duet between the strings. The finale, Allegro molto, is full of a forward thrusting energy. It begins with a sense of urgency as the melody quickly rises to a dramatic high point. Tension is maintained by the nervous, driven second second theme, full of staccato passage work.

This is a modern masterpiece from the first decade of the 20th century. It belongs in the concert repertoire. Performing American trios ought to bring this superb work back to concert audiences everywhere. Nor should amateurs miss the opportunity to delve into such a finely crafted trio.

© Edition Silvertrust. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Related Composers

1900 WWI WWII John Knowles Paine (1839-1906) Arthur Foote (1853-1937) George Chadwick (1854-1931) Edward MacDowell (1860-1908) Horatio Parker (1863-1919) Amy Beach (1867-1944) Daniel Gregory Mason (1873-1953) Charles Ives (1874-1954) Carl Ruggles (1876-1971)
John Knowles Paine (1839-1906)
Nationality: American
Born: January 9, 1839, Portland, ME Died: April 25, 1906, Cambridge, MA (age 67)