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List: Edition Silvertrust
Camille Saint-Saëns

Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921)

Nationality: French
Born: October 9, 1835, Paris Died: December 16, 1921, Algiers (age 86)

Piano Trio No. 1 in F major, Op. 18

(for violin, cello and piano)
7:38 I. Allegro vivace
8:21 II. Andante
3:58 III. Scherzo. Presto
7:09 IV. Allegro
Duration: 28 minutes (approximately)
Composed: 1864, October (age 28-29)
Premiere: January 20, 1865. Paris, Salle Pleyel. Saint-Saëns, piano, Pablo de Sarasate, violin
Published: 1867 (age 31-32)
Dedication: Alfred Lamarche
9 recordings, 36 videos
autoopen autoplay
8:04
Horszowski Trio
I. Allegro vivace
8:11
Horszowski Trio
II. Andante
3:42
Horszowski Trio
III. Scherzo. Presto
9:24
Horszowski Trio
IV. Allegro
7:17
Yuval Trio
I. Allegro vivace
8:34
Yuval Trio
II. Andante
4:00
Yuval Trio
III. Scherzo. Presto
5:11
Yuval Trio
IV. Allegro
8:07
Nash Ensemble
I. Allegro vivace
8:23
Nash Ensemble
II. Andante
3:55
Nash Ensemble
III. Scherzo. Presto
7:02
Nash Ensemble
IV. Allegro
6:27
Leonid Kogan, Mstislav Rostropovich, Emil Gilels
I. Allegro vivace
7:33
Leonid Kogan, Mstislav Rostropovich, Emil Gilels
II. Andante
4:11
Leonid Kogan, Mstislav Rostropovich, Emil Gilels
III. Scherzo. Presto
4:54
Leonid Kogan, Mstislav Rostropovich, Emil Gilels
IV. Allegro
8:11
Joachim Trio
I. Allegro vivace
9:17
Joachim Trio
II. Andante
4:00
Joachim Trio
III. Scherzo. Presto
8:51
Joachim Trio
IV. Allegro
7:55
Göbel-Trio Berlin
I. Allegro vivace
6:38
Göbel-Trio Berlin
II. Andante
4:06
Göbel-Trio Berlin
III. Scherzo. Presto
6:43
Göbel-Trio Berlin
IV. Allegro
7:11
Rembrandt Trio
I. Allegro vivace
8:13
Rembrandt Trio
II. Andante
4:07
Rembrandt Trio
III. Scherzo. Presto
6:55
Rembrandt Trio
IV. Allegro
7:28
Golub Kaplan Carr Trio
I. Allegro vivace
9:40
Golub Kaplan Carr Trio
II. Andante
3:43
Golub Kaplan Carr Trio
III. Scherzo. Presto
7:34
Golub Kaplan Carr Trio
IV. Allegro
7:44
Aquinas Piano Trio
I. Allegro vivace
8:41
Aquinas Piano Trio
II. Andante
3:58
Aquinas Piano Trio
III. Scherzo. Presto
6:37
Aquinas Piano Trio
IV. Allegro
From Kai Christiansen

Camille Saint-Saëns, 1835-1921

Piano Trio No. 1 in F major, Op. 18, 1864

Around the turn of the 20th century, Camille Saint-Saëns was widely regarded by the English-speaking world as France's greatest living composer. Throughout the later 19th century, he was not inaccurately labeled the French Mozart, the French Mendelssohn and even the French Beethoven. Saint-Saëns was a remarkable child prodigy demonstrating immense gifts as a pianist, composer and star pupil in a variety of academic subjects. His musical mind was nurtured on the Viennese classics (he could play all 32 Beethoven piano sonatas from memory at the age of 10), and he would eventually compose prodigiously and masterfully in all the classic musical genres for church, stage, orchestra, chamber ensemble, solo piano and organ. Upon hearing him improvise, Liszt pronounced Saint-Saëns the greatest organist of all time. Unlike most of his French musical contemporaries, the young Saint-Saëns championed the new music of Schumann, Wagner and Liszt and he was equally unusual in frequently composing chamber music, something most others regarded as a particularly Germanic specialty. Saint-Saëns became a significant, internationally famous composer almost as a French neo-classicist commonly associated with two of his strongest mid-century influences: Mendelssohn and Schumann. Nonetheless, with the motto "Ars gallica", Saint-Saëns vigorously promoted the music of new French composers, particularly that of his favorite student Gabriel Fauré. But in time, with the rise of such composers as Debussy, Ravel and Poulenc, Saint-Saëns faded into the role of the "old school" conservative, a relic in the face of the avant-garde.

Saint-Saëns left a rich trove of wonderful music in all traditional genres and it is surprising that his chamber music especially is not performed more frequently. His duo sonatas, piano trios, piano quartets and string quartets are all masterful pieces beginning with the sparkling Piano Trio No. 1 in F major, Op. 18, of 1864, written just before Saint-Saëns turned 30. While it strongly evokes the influences of Schumann, Mendelssohn and, indeed, Beethoven, it is also undeniably French. Perhaps more pleasurable than profound (as some have put it) the trio has spacious, transparent textures, formal elegance, rhythmic vitality and color with ingenious development of simple but pliable musical materials. The clarity, the invention, and the perfectly classical musicality of it all vividly support the true notion of a French Mozart.

The first movement, in sonata form, is a rather dazzling showpiece of thematic minimalism. The first theme is a lively dotted-rhythm making a two-part assent up the major scale. The second, a shape that climbs a little and falls a lot, a kind of spinning descent. Propelled in a triple-meter dance, these two small motives expand, invert, cross-pollinate and blend in counterpoint, passing among the three instruments in an intricate weave. The rich diversity blossoming from such humorously basic means is pure wit. The exposition has no repeat: when it comes around again, a clear extended development begins while the recapitulation swaps the roles and inverts the textures. A coda decorates the design. Throughout the whole trio there is a formal clarity that is enlivened by vivacious spontaneity.

The second, slow movement is an atmospheric rondo whose main refrain is a poised, double-dotted French processional, delicate, deliberate and slightly melancholy in a minor key. Between the refrains that reappear with fresh color and ambiance as the scoring changes, Saint-Saëns turns to the major mode with song-like lyricism and poignancy. The seams are subtle and finely blended as the distinctive dotted-rhythm stitches together otherwise contrasting musical sections.

The brief scherzo is nimble, pointillistic, occasionally deconstructed on one hand, and sweeping into grandeur on the other. Bright, virtuosic and humorous, this is Saint-Saëns the remarkable and uncanny French Beethoven.

The finale to this delicious trio reprises the simple means, sunny disposition and lively, flowing momentum of the first movement. It appears to be a sonata but the ever-dynamic development only increases towards the end in a flourish of rhapsodic fantasia. The essential theme is almost a nursery rhyme of basic tunefulness but split into two-note fragments sung in a call-and-response dialog between the strings. A loud chord and a muscular motive violently interrupt and the music protests in dramatic contrapuntal skeins. Schumann strongly comes to mind throughout but also something quite more Gallic and forward looking, a sensibility suggesting Ravel. Indeed, when Ravel wrote his piano trio masterpiece almost exactly 50 years later, he apparently turned to this trio and admired the finely crafted music of Camille Saint-Saëns.

© Kai Christiansen Used by permission. All rights reserved.

From Edition Silvertrust

Camille Saint-SaënsDuring the third quarter of the 19 century, when the French only seemed interested in opera, Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921), almost single-handedly, attempted to make the case for chamber music, which so many of his countrymen continued to think of as something German. Although famous for his larger orchestral works and instrumental concertos, he devoted a great deal of time and effort to writing chamber music. Not only does he have two string quartets to his credit, but he also wrote three works for piano trio, a serenade for piano, organ, violin and viola ( or cello), a quintet for piano, two violins, viola and cello, a Caprice on Danish & Russian Aires for piano, flute, oboe and B flat clarinet and his Septet for piano, trumpet, two violins, viola, cello and bass.

Although the First Piano Trio is a relatively early work, by the time he came to write it in 1863, Saint-Saëns already had composed a piano quintet, a piano trio suite and a serenade for violin, viola and organ. The well-respected critic and savant, Emile Baumann, writes of Piano Trio No. 1 as follows:

"The First Piano Trio is one of the most inspired moments of his youth. The opening theme of the first movement, Allegro vivace, expresses the joy of adventure. Its alluring gaiety communicates itself to the cello and permeates passages that are heavy with foreboding as well as those that are buoyant. The following Andante is a model of plastic and expressive melody. The main theme unfolds like an ancient ballad while the conclusion is filled with an intimate tenderness. The sprightly third movement, Scherzo, is filled with humor and wonderful cross rhythms and pizzicato effects. Much of the same buoyant spirit of the first movement is also to be found in the boisterous finale, Allegro."

It is hard to understand why we do not find this lovely trio in the concert hall. Certainly it should interest both professionals and amateurs alike.

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


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