Johannes Brahms 1833–97
In the summer of 1886 Brahms went to stay at Thun in Switzerland, not far from the house of his friend the poet Joseph Victor Widmann. Rumour had it that the two men were working on an opera together, but in fact Brahms used the visit to compose three works in rather more characteristic instrumental vein: the Second Cello Sonata, the Second Violin Sonata and the Third Piano Trio. The magnificent scenery in which he found himself (Lake Thun, and a view from his rooms of the Bernese Oberland) clearly had something of a rejuvenating effect on the 53-year-old composer, for these pieces seem to recapture some of the vigour of earlier times, tempered now by the accumulated musical wisdom of late middle-age. Nowhere is this mixture of youthfulness and experience more in evidence than in the powerful first movement of the C minor Piano Trio. Stormy and romantic, it is at the same time one of Brahms’s most tightly controlled structures, with a succinctness of utterance that bespeaks a mature composer. Thus, there is no repeat of the opening exposition, and the later recapitulation of it
Piano Trio No. 3 in C minor, Op. 101 1 2 3 4
Allegro energico Presto non assai Andante grazioso Allegro molto
is considerably condensed, creeping in not with the heroic theme with which the movement began, but instead under the disguise of its subsidiary motif. The material of the first few bars does, however, serve as the driving force of the central development section, and also features prominently in the long coda. The second movement has the formal design and function of a scherzo, though Brahms does not call it that, and its mood is nothing so orthodox; this is a fleeting, ghost-like movement (the strings muted) which, in the words of the great early 20th-century analyst Donald Tovey, ‘hurries by like a frightened child’. In contrast, the next movement is a warm-hearted C major Andante grazioso which, despite an apparently complex mixture of five- and seven-in-a-bar, has a gentle lyrical flow that could hardly be more natural. The sonata-form finale returns to the troubled C minor of the first two movements, but in the coda Brahms switches to the major to end the work in more hopeful mood.
Interval – 20 minutes An announcement will be made five minutes before the end of the interval.
London Philharmonic Orchestra | 7