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List: Chamber Music. Berger
Felix Mendelssohn

Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)

Nationality: German
Born: February 3, 1809, Hamburg Died: November 4, 1847, Leipzig (age 38)

Piano Trio No. 2 in c minor, Op. 66

(for violin, cello and piano)
10:42 I. Allegro energico e fuoco
7:16 II. Andante espressivo
3:41 III. Scherzo. Molto allegro quasi presto
8:02 IV. Finale. Allegro appassionato
Duration: 29 minutes (approximately)
Composed: 1845 (age 35-36)
Published: 1846, Leipzig: Breitkopf & Härtel / Paris: M. Schlesinger (age 36-37)
Dedication: Louis Spohr
15 recordings, 43 videos
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9:24
Trio Con Brio Copenhagen
I. Allegro energico e fuoco
6:59
Trio Con Brio Copenhagen
II. Andante espressivo
3:35
Trio Con Brio Copenhagen
III. Scherzo. Molto allegro quasi presto
7:09
Trio Con Brio Copenhagen
IV. Finale. Allegro appassionato
25:59
Voces Intimae
28:13
Van Baerle Trio
28:49
Trio di Bolzano
10:23
Stern, Rose, Istomin
I. Allegro energico e fuoco
7:05
Stern, Rose, Istomin
II. Andante espressivo
3:46
Stern, Rose, Istomin
III. Scherzo. Molto allegro quasi presto
7:58
Stern, Rose, Istomin
IV. Finale. Allegro appassionato
11:14
Perlman, Ma, Ax
I. Allegro energico e fuoco
6:42
Perlman, Ma, Ax
II. Andante espressivo
3:48
Perlman, Ma, Ax
III. Scherzo. Molto allegro quasi presto
8:26
Perlman, Ma, Ax
IV. Finale. Allegro appassionato
29:44
Oistrakh Trio (complete)
11:11
Nash Ensemble
I. Allegro energico e fuoco
7:40
Nash Ensemble
II. Andante espressivo
3:56
Nash Ensemble
III. Scherzo. Molto allegro quasi presto
8:14
Nash Ensemble
IV. Finale. Allegro appassionato
10:49
Guarneri Trio
I. Allegro energico e fuoco
6:35
Guarneri Trio
II. Andante espressivo
3:30
Guarneri Trio
III. Scherzo. Molto allegro quasi presto
8:03
Guarneri Trio
IV. Finale. Allegro appassionato
10:42
Gryphon Trio
I. Allegro energico e fuoco
7:35
Gryphon Trio
II. Andante espressivo
3:43
Gryphon Trio
III. Scherzo. Molto allegro quasi presto
7:41
Gryphon Trio
IV. Finale. Allegro appassionato
10:42
Fischer, Müller-Schott, Gilad
I. Allegro energico e fuoco
8:19
Fischer, Müller-Schott, Gilad
II. Andante espressivo
3:27
Fischer, Müller-Schott, Gilad
III. Scherzo. Molto allegro quasi presto
7:58
Fischer, Müller-Schott, Gilad
IV. Finale. Allegro appassionato
10:01
Claremont Trio
I. Allegro energico e fuoco
7:02
Claremont Trio
II. Andante espressivo
3:31
Claremont Trio
III. Scherzo. Molto allegro quasi presto
7:50
Claremont Trio
IV. Finale. Allegro appassionato
11:06
Bindere, Blaumane, Gislinge
I. Allegro energico e fuoco
7:42
Bindere, Blaumane, Gislinge
II. Andante espressivo
3:38
Bindere, Blaumane, Gislinge
III. Scherzo. Molto allegro quasi presto
8:44
Bindere, Blaumane, Gislinge
IV. Finale. Allegro appassionato
11:12
Benvenue Fortepiano Trio
I. Allegro energico e fuoco
7:01
Benvenue Fortepiano Trio
II. Andante espressivo
27:31
Beaux Arts Trio (complete)
From Kai Christiansen

Felix Mendelssohn, 1809-1847

Piano Trio No. 2 in C minor, Op. 66, 1845

Schumann described Mendelssohn as "the Mozart of the nineteenth century", an apt label considering the classical qualities of Mendelssohn's music within a period dominated by Romanticism. He wrote expertly crafted music of charm and polish with a masterful control of texture and form achieving superb clarity and balance. Mendelssohn is frequently regarded as a conservative. Some consider that he did not live up to his potential. Such assessments have not stopped Mendelssohn from becoming one of the most beloved composers of all time. An ample portion of his mature chamber music is continuously celebrated in the standard repertory with his two piano trios high on the list. Perhaps less popular than his first, his second Piano Trio in C minor, Op. 66 embodies all the finest qualities of Mendelssohn's immaculate art. It was composed in 1845, two years before his death; it was the last chamber work Mendelssohn saw published.

"Energetic and fiery", the opening is one of Mendelssohn's finest sonata movements. It is built from three main ideas. First, a turbulent piano figure struggles up a steep climb in restless arced strides only to fall swiftly back down, crashing on a half cadence. The strings retrace the mountainous trek and the sweeping fall, this time landing on a full cadence confirming the rock-solid minor tonic. The rhythmic gestures now coalesce into the second main idea: a sorrowful theme for violin that rounds out the minor key area. This rounding, confirming quality comes from its clear harmonic underpinnings as well as its shape: a simple rise and fall that mirrors the broad sweep of the opening gesture in miniature. The restless climb swells again but now softly descends into the third idea: a new melodic theme, lyrical and warm in the relative major key. Remarkably, it also describes a rise and fall in its fundamental shape but dispels the restless energy with a gentle sense of repose. The unity of rising and falling gestures in all three ideas instills the entire movement with an undulating, swirling momentum that concentrates on the essential vectors: the ascending motive from the first theme, and the descending motives from the second and third. The sharp contrasts of minor and major, motion and repose and the essential sweep of up and down create a powerful dramatic narrative. The conclusion darkens the bright lyricism with the urgency of C minor and a renewed muscular thrust hurls the music towards a fierce, definitive close.

The middle movements feature Mendelssohn's most characteristic and cherished expressions. The second movement is a tender balm for the blistering urgency of the first, a graceful song without words instantly reminiscent of Mendelssohn's piano miniatures of the same name. A steady, elongated 9/8 motion gently rocks a flowing tale in stanzas that alternate between piano and strings, flowering into a loving duet between violin and cello. A ternary form cradles a sorrowful interlude within a tender embrace. The third movement scherzo is a Mendelssohn calling card: swift, light and nimble, it evinces both delicacy and tensile strength. The brief trio is seamlessly interwoven into the perpetual motion but flashes with its glint of major tonality and a rhythmic marker: a single long note beginning its theme. Mendelssohn must have intended the trio to appear and vanish like a woodland sprite. In case we missed it, he flashes it again, delighted with his cunning sleight of hand.

The finale balances the "fuoco" opening with an "appassionato" closing. Like the first movement, it features three ideas, this time in a rondo form with a surprise. Labeling each of the sections with the letters, the rondo lays out as "ABACABACB". The "A" refrain has the nervous energy and C minor tonality dominating the whole trio. Its theme starts with a large upward leap and a downward tumble, an easy marker for the return of the refrain. The "B" episodes are more relaxed, lyrical and in the relative major. The "C" episodes exploit an effect that Mendelssohn used before (e.g. Reformation Symphony, String Quartet in E-flat): he interpolates a theme from another source, a chorale melody that has been variously traced to Bach and the Geneva Psalter of 1551. With its second appearance towards the end, the chorale triumphantly towers above the surrounding music with giant chords and full-throttle strings, a challenge to the chamber texture of the piano trio. The rondo sustains this radiant transformation by concluding with the major tonality and lyricism of "B" and a coda that confirms, at last, the victory of light over dark.

© Kai Christiansen Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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