Tradition and Transition

In the early 19th century Mozart and Beethoven had only recently been elevated to the status of 'classics'  to which future generations would be compared. Written in 1827 in the shadow of this tradition, Mendelssohn's Piano Trio in D Minor, Op. 49 combines a forward-looking fiery Romantic temperament with the clarity and architecture of the late 18th century Classical masters. By 1882, the date that Brahms composed his  Piano Trio in C Major, Op. 87, the very idea of 'chamber music' was under attack for being old-fashioned and outdated, and yet the trio's passion, color, and supreme craft are the most eloquent possible argument in defense of that heritage. And finally, written during the evolving era of the modern 20th century, Leonard Bernstein's Piano Trio (1937) is a perfect encapsulation of the American response to Europe's musical tradition--eclectic, witty, learned, and sassy. Spanning a time frame of just greater than a century this program illustrates tradition in transition and takes a look at expansion of boundaries, innovation, and change. 


Works to be performed on "Tradition and Transition" program include:

Felix Mendelssohn, Piano Trio in D Minor, Op. 49

Johannes Brahms, Piano Trio in C Major, Op. 87

Leonard Bernstein, Piano Trio (1937)

Their Roots are Showing

Arthur Foote was a Wagnerian whose Piano Trio No. 2 has an unmistakable American twang; Paul Schoenfield uses an entire century's worth of American popular music in his Cafe Music and Bedrich Smetana struggles to create a Czech national music out of sheer will in his Piano Trio in G Minor.


Works to be performed on the “Their Roots are Showing” program include:

Arthur Foote, Piano Trio in Bb Major, Op. 65

Paul Schoenfield, Café Music

Bedrich Smetana, Piano Trio in G Minor

Two Hundred Years of Women Composers

With the formal mastery of Louise Farrenc, a contemporary of Schumann, at one end and the eeire sounds of Stacy Garrop's Seven for piano trio (1997-98) at the other, this concert encompasses a tremendous amount of musical variety.


Works to be performed on the “Two Hundred Years of Women Composers” program include:

Jennifer Higdon, Piano Trio (2003)
Louise Farrenc, Piano Trio in Eb, Op. 33 (1850-1855)
Stacey Garrop, Seven for piano trio (1997-1998)
Rebecca Clarke, Piano Trio, (1921)
Ruby Fulton, Whitney (2013)*
*commissioned by the West Shore Piano Trio

Craft and Fluidity

The piano trio has been a chameleon since its genesis in the 18th century, and a fragment by Mozart and Tangos by Piazzolla show just how much range the genre can cover. Meanwhile, Brahms rewrites a early work to both redeem its musical potential and to obscure some uncomfortable personal history.


Works to be performed on the “Craft and Fluidity” program include:

Wolfgang Mozart, Trio movement in D Major, K442 (compiled by M.Stadler)

Astor Piazzolla, Buenos Aires Seasons

Johannes Brahms, Piano Trio No.1 in B Major, Op.8

Struggle and Ease

The emotional intensity of Schumann's music reflects the struggles that composer experienced in his life, while the ease with which Saint-Saens mastered not only music but science, literature and philosophy is heard in his witty and virtuosic aesthetic. Meanwhile Shostakovich tangled with a Soviet music bureaucracy that might imprison or even murder him for writing the wrong kind of music.


Works to be performed on the “Struggle and Ease” program include:

Robert Schumann, Piano Trio in D Minor, Op. 63

Dmitri Shostakovich, Piano Trio in E Minor, Op. 67

Camille Saint-Saëns, Piano Trio in F Major, Op. 18

Concerto Offerings

Beethoven (1770-1827)  Concerto for Violin, Cello and Piano in C Major, Op. 56

Recent Programs

Before They Were Famous

Beethoven’s very first opus is comprised of three piano trios in which we can hear the seeds of the playfulness, heroism and grim passion to come.  In his C minor trio in particular, the listener can experience both the legacy of Haydn and specific elements that would become the trademark of Beethoven’s later style.  Similarly, Chopin and Debussy were innovators of musical language, but both of their piano trios were composed in the styles of their predecessors.  Chopin grew up during the ‘brillante’ period, and accordingly his trio is filled with gorgeous melodies for the strings and virtuoso passage-work for the piano.  A young Debussy was encouraged by Mme. Von Meck, Tchaikovsky’s famous correspondent, to compose a piano trio; for 100 years the piece was unknown and the only evidence of this work was in one of Von Meck’s letters.  The trio was discovered in the 1980s, and is representative of Debussy’s approach to late French Romanticism.


Works to be performed on the “Before They Were Famous” program include:

Ludwig van Beethoven, Piano Trio in C Minor, Op. 1 #3
Claude Debussy, Piano Trio in G Major
Frédéric Chopin, Piano Trio in G Minor, Op. 8

10 Years and 10,000 Miles Apart

Usually one would hesitate to program two pieces written within ten years of each other in the very heart of the Romantic era—but although close in time, Felix Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio #2 in C minor and Bedřich Smetana’s Piano Trio in G minor are worlds apart.  Mendelssohn was an original insider—a child prodigy, a master by his teens, flourishing at the very center of the well-established German tradition.  Composed in 1845, his Piano Trio in C minor alternates between controlled fury and charm, grace and wit.  Smetana was an outsider—he dreamed of being “a Mozart in composition and a Liszt in technique” but struggled with his schooling, and he aspired to create a Czech musical tradition to rival that of Germany.  Composed ten years after Mendelssohn’s C minor trio, and one year after the death of a favorite daughter, Smetana’s Piano Trio in G minor is raw and powerful, a lunatic combination of soaring melodies, nationalism and private grief.


Works to be performed on the “10 years and 10,000 miles apart” program include:

Bedřich Smetana, Piano Trio in G Minor
Felix Mendelssohn, Piano Trio in C minor, Op. 66

With a Little Help From Their Friends

Beethoven’s music aspired to the most lofty realms of human emotion—the pinnacles of nobility, heroism and passion. His personal life, however, was not so ideal and was characterized by conflict and questionable judgment—which makes Beethoven’s relationship with the Archduke Rudolph all the more special. A friend, student and patron, the Archduke Rudolph inspired Beethoven to compose some of his most touching and care-free music. In contrast, Tchaikovsky’s relationship with Anton Rubenstein was much more fraught. Rubenstein was the founder of Russia’s first conservatory and constantly knocked heads with Tchaikovsky, Russia’s first professional composer. When Nicolai Rubenstein, Anton’s brother, came to Tchaikovsky’s aid, a friendship was struck that lasted until the former’s untimely death. In tribute, Tchaikovsky began the Russian compositional tradition of writing a piano trio as an elegy for a departed friend, a canvas on which to paint the monumental emotions he felt for his friend and mentor.


Works to be performed on the “With a Little Help From Their Friends” program include:

Ludwig van Beethoven, Piano Trio in Bb Major, Op. 97

Peter Tchaikovsky, Piano Trio in A minor

The French Connection

From Beethoven to Brahms, the 19th century was dominated by German music, and great French musicians such as César Franck and Camille Saint-Saëns struggled to write important music in an authentically French style. But from that struggle, the seeds were planted that would grow into a glorious renaissance of French music after the turn of the 20th century, in the work of composers such as Maurice Ravel. Join us as we trace the path through Franck's grim, Germanic Piano Trio Op. 1, to Saint-Saëns light and playful Piano Trio Op. 18, finally arriving at Ravel's utter masterpiece, the Piano Trio in A Minor.


Works to be performed on the "French Connection" program include:

César Franck, Piano Trio in F# Minor, Op. 1

Camille Saint-Saëns, Piano Trio in F Major, Op. 18

Maurice Ravel, Piano Trio in A Minor