Johannes Brahms

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)

Nationality: German
Born: May 7, 1833, Hamburg Died: April 3, 1897, Vienna (age 63)

Piano Trio No. 3 in c minor, Op. 101

(for violin, cello and piano)
7:37 I. Allegro energico
3:37 II. Presto non assai
4:22 III. Andante grazioso
5:50 IV. Finale: Allegro molto
Duration: 22 minutes (approximately)
Composed: 1886 (age 52-53)
Premiere: December 20, 1886. Budapest. Jenő Hubay (violin), David Popper (cello), Brahms (piano)
Published: 1887, Berlin: N. Simrock (age 53-54)
9 recordings, 27 videos
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7:24
Munich Piano Trio
I. Allegro energico
3:23
Munich Piano Trio
II. Presto non assai
4:27
Munich Piano Trio
III. Andante grazioso
6:03
Munich Piano Trio
IV. Finale: Allegro molto
7:08
Christian Tetzlaff, Tanja Tetzlaff, Lars Vogt
I. Allegro energico
3:29
Christian Tetzlaff, Tanja Tetzlaff, Lars Vogt
II. Presto non assai
4:07
Christian Tetzlaff, Tanja Tetzlaff, Lars Vogt
III. Andante grazioso
5:47
Christian Tetzlaff, Tanja Tetzlaff, Lars Vogt
IV. Finale: Allegro molto
8:48
Trio Modigliani
I. Allegro energico
3:59
Trio Modigliani
II. Presto non assai
4:52
Trio Modigliani
III. Andante grazioso
6:41
Trio Modigliani
IV. Finale: Allegro molto
7:15
Orbis Trio
I. Allegro energico
3:28
Orbis Trio
II. Presto non assai
4:18
Orbis Trio
III. Andante grazioso
5:22
Orbis Trio
IV. Finale: Allegro molto
7:52
Menuhin, Istomin, Casals
I. Allegro energico
4:05
Menuhin, Istomin, Casals
II. Presto non assai
3:52
Menuhin, Istomin, Casals
III. Andante grazioso
6:01
Menuhin, Istomin, Casals
IV. Finale: Allegro molto
21:07
Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio
23:41
Hirt Trio (1929)
22:40
Claremont Trio
6:45
Beaux Arts Trio
I. Allegro energico
3:13
Beaux Arts Trio
II. Presto non assai
4:33
Beaux Arts Trio
III. Andante grazioso
4:55
Beaux Arts Trio
IV. Finale: Allegro molto
From Kai Christiansen

Johannes Brahms, 1833-1897

Piano Trio No. 3 in C minor, Op. 101 (1886)

In his excellent, comprehensive survey of the piano trio, Professor Basil Smallman summarizes the contribution of Brahms: "With the C major and C minor trios Brahms brought the genre, in its classical-romantic forms, to a splendid culmination in the late nineteenth century. Many successors and imitators sought to achieve a comparable excellence in their works, but none showed the same capacity for combining profuse melodic invention with a seemingly effortless mastery of technique." It is likely that the ever self-critical and circumspect Brahms destroyed or withheld from publication numerous trios, but officially, he published three for the standard ensemble of violin, cello and piano. The first, the endearing Op.8 in B Major, was published in 1854, but Brahms famously revised it decades later after completing the pair of mature trios of which Smallman speaks. Brahms composed his final Piano Trio No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 101 in the summer of 1886 when, at the peak of his powers, he produced an astonishing clutch of works including a cello sonata, two violin sonatas and some songs. Clara Schumann, whom Brahms frequently consulted for her keen musical assessments, left a revealing note in her diary concerning the scherzo: "No other work of Johannes has so entirely transported me; so tender is the flow of the second movement which is wonderfully poetic. I am happier tonight than I have been for a long time."

This last trio is, by comparison with the earlier ones, compact: it is nearly half the length of the first. The opening bars establish a breathless momentum sustained by a streamlined design: the sonata form omits the exposition repeat proceeding directly into a pithy development. The second movement is hushed scherzo that is nearly seamless without pronounced sectional contrasts. The slow movement is a delicate, uncomplicated intermezzo and the finale quickly marches darkly and relentlessly towards the ultimate release of tension as the tonality transforms from C Minor to C Major. Along the journey of "profuse melodic invention" one finds numerous details of "technical mastery".

The first movement is often used as a showcase for Brahms' "thematic variation" because a four-note rising motif in the pianist's left hand (right at the beginning) becomes a motto generating the second theme, a counterpoint to the first theme and possibly an underlying germ for subsequent movements. The "hushed" quality of the second movement scherzo (Clara's favorite) depends on several interesting details: the strings are muted and deployed in an eerie wisp of evaporating pizzicato while throughout, sotto voce and pianissimo dynamics prevail. The extraordinary intimate delicacy of the slow movement is primarily based on scoring. The music presents a constant dialog of call and response between the strings and the piano where, in the reprise, they speak back and forth in phrases as if to complete each other's thoughts. All four movements revel in Brahms' love of rhythmic complexity using three-against-two, syncopations, changing meters and, in the case of the slow movement, unusual implied meters like 7/4 and 5/4. These technical details are points to ponder, yet they serve as underpinnings absorbed into the sweep of melody, motion and mood that affect a peak musical experience, the apotheosis of the romantic piano trio.

© Kai Christiansen Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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