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Hyperion Records

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Clouds in the Evening (1823) by Johan Christian Clausen Dahl (1788-1857)
Nasjonalgalleriet, Oslo / Photograph by J Lathion
Track(s) taken from CDA67273
Recording details: December 2000
Henry Wood Hall, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Tony Faulkner
Release date: November 2001
Total duration: 40 minutes 5 seconds

'This stands out among modern recordings of this fine work [and] the Movement in B flat makes a freshly endearing bonus. This will be hard to beat and one eagerly awaits the E flat major Trio' (Gramophone)

'Marvellously alive, the phrasing playful when required, delicate but never precious, [the trio] frolic through with palpable joy and an unerring sense of ensemble. Placed alongside this CD, even the Beaux Arts Trio, old favourites in this repertoire, start to look staid' (The Times)

'I urge you not to miss the Florestan disc which certainly becomes my version of choice for the B flat Trio and the early trio movement' (Fanfare, USA)

Piano Trio No 1 in B flat major, D898
late summer or autumn 1827

Allegro moderato  [15'00]
Scherzo: Allegro  [6'34]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Of all the large-scale works of his last years, the B flat Trio is the one that comes closest to the popular image of the blithe, companionable Schubert, pouring out a stream of spontaneous melody. From its soaring opening theme to the sublimated echoes of Viennese popular music in the finale the music exudes life-affirming energy, belying Schumann’s (to us) laughably sexist characterization of it as ‘passive’ and ‘feminine’, in contrast to the ‘dramatic’ and ‘masculine’ E flat Trio. Yet in the first movement, especially, the unfettered lyricism is underpinned by some of Schubert’s most subtle harmonic and structural thinking. The development builds the first theme to a strenuous climax, hovers on the dominant of F major and then slips magically to A flat major for a reappearance of the expansive second theme on the cello, counterpointed with the opening theme’s dancing triplets. In a series of typically leisurely sequences the music glides down via E major and C major to the brink of the tonic, B flat and a grand preparation, à la Beethoven, for the recapitulation. But instead of the anticipated triumphant return Schubert quietly and nonchalantly deflects at the last moment to the key of the flattened sixth, G flat major, only settling in B flat when the piano takes up the main theme. Beethoven never launched a recapitulation in a remote key like this. Yet Schubert here shows something of Beethoven’s power of long-range thinking: for the significance of G flat had been ‘flagged’, firstly by the G flat trill in the keyboard bass that momentarily ruffles the diatonic clarity of the main theme, and more prominently by the cello’s pivoting from F to an accented G flat in the cadential theme (a variant of the second subject) at the end of the exposition.

The E flat Andante is built on a sublime lullaby melody sounded in turn by cello, violin and piano, in the manner of a round, and exquisitely adorned with countermelodies. After a florid C minor central episode with a whiff of gypsy exoticism, the lullaby moves through a series of poetic modulations (A flat, E major, C major, then back to E flat) that echoes the tonal sequence in the first-movement development. The moderately paced Scherzo, enclosing a suave, waltz trio, has a puckish grace, with a deft and witty give-and-take between the instruments; as many commentators have noted, the first four bars are a virtual inversion of the opening of the ‘Trout’ Quintet’s Scherzo. In the sprawling sonata-form finale we meet Schubert at his most gemütlich. Contrast to the jaunty, echt-Viennese main theme is provided by a mock-heroic three-bar unison figure which crops up in assorted guises throughout the movement. Schubert reserves his coup de grâce for the start of the development. Here the unison figure’s three-bar structure and accentuation are cunningly fitted into a new metrical scheme (3/2 as oppposed to the original 2/4 time) as the players strike up a delightful rustic polonaise, complete with drone effects in the piano.

from notes by Richard Wigmore © 2001

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