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Hyperion Records

Click cover art to view larger version
Track(s) taken from CDA67175
Recording details: December 1999
Henry Wood Hall, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Tony Faulkner
Release date: August 2000
Total duration: 26 minutes 45 seconds

'Revelatory performances from the Florestan. Excellently recorded, this welcome disc should win all three works a new lease of life' (Gramophone)

'The Florestan Trio plays all these works with characteristic thoughtfulness and intelligence. It is difficult to find fault with its performances. A valuable and highly enjoyable addition to the Schumann discography' (BBC Music Magazine)

'A triumphant successor to their previous disc of Schumann. Indeed, it’s one of the best discs of Schumann chamber music I’ve heard in recent years' (International Record Review)

'The Florestans—named after the more extrovert of Schumann's two artistic alter egos—have, in only five years, established themselves as the piano trio par excellence of our day. Their previous Schumann disc, comprising the D minor and F major trios, won deserved acclaim and a clutch of awards. Now they turn their attention to the late G minor trio, a comparative rarity in the concert hall these days. Listening to such exhilarating, spontaneous accounts of this wonderful music, it is hard to understand its neglect. Another superlative issue from Hyperion and the Florestans.' (The Sunday Times)

'First rate in every way: thoughtful and spirited accounts of all three pieces' (Classic FM Magazine)

'Delightful. Most refined performances of lovely music' (Classic CD)

'Irresistibly lovely music, the Florestans respond to it with performances of finesse and insight. Textures are warm, and the recording clear and well-focused. A first-rate recommendation' (The Scotsman)

'Marvellous performances. The Florestan trio, individually and as an ensemble, plays with flawless technique, integrating sounds and ideas perfectly. Altogether, a fine recording' (Fanfare, USA)

'This latest recording confirms that the Florestan Trio has become one of the most exciting and compelling chamber groups around. Their skill is that they let the music speak for itself but play it with passion … magical' (Daily Express)

Piano Trio No 3 in G minor, Op 110
autumn 1851

Rasch  [4'06]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
‘Robert is working busily on a Trio for piano, violin and cello’, Clara Schumann confided to her diary on 11 October 1851, ‘but he won’t let me hear any of it at all until he is completely finished. I only know that it is in G minor’. The first rehearsal of the new work, a fortnight or so later, made a deep impression on Clara. ‘It is original’, she wrote, ‘and increasingly passionate, especially the scherzo, which carries one along with it into the wildest depths’.

Schumann’s G minor Piano Trio belongs to a group of three chamber works composed in rapid succession in the autumn of 1851, at a time when the composer’s relations with the Düsseldorf municipal orchestra, of which he had been director since 1849, had begun to sour. The Trio followed hard on the heels of Schumann’s First Violin Sonata in A minor; and its opening movement, with its passionately intense main subject and its driving 6/8 rhythm, clearly looks forward to that of the Sonata’s D minor successor which he began barely more than a fortnight later. Clara Schumann was able to play both the Trio and the D minor Sonata during a chamber music evening at their house, on 15 November. The string players on that occasion were Schumann’s violinist friend Joseph von Wasielewski, and the principal cellist of the Düsseldorf orchestra, Christian Reimers.

The following March, during a week-long celebration of Schumann’s music in Leipzig, Clara performed Schumann’s earlier Piano Trio in D minor, together with the leader of the Gewandhaus Orchestra, Ferdinand David, and the cellist Johann Grabau. (At another musical soirée a day or two later, she played the new G minor Trio to Liszt, after which she and Liszt sight-read their way through Mendelssohn’s Allegro brillant for piano duet.) Schumann was so taken with Ferdinand David’s playing that he dedicated the D minor Violin Sonata to him. As for the Piano Trio in G minor, it was inscribed to the Danish composer Niels Gade, whose music was much admired by both Schumann and Mendelssohn. In the 1840s Gade had been Mendelssohn’s assistant at Leipzig, and, for a brief period following Mendelssohn’s death in 1847, chief conductor of the Gewandhaus Orchestra. However, when war broke out between Prussia and Denmark the following year Gade returned to Copenhagen, where he remained until he died in 1890.

Schumann’s last piano trio is a piece that has all but disappeared from the repertoire. Together with some of his other late chamber works, it has sometimes been cited as evidence of the composer’s weakening creative strength—a judgement with which any listener carried away by the surging passion of its opening Allegro, the warmth of its slow movement or the sweeping continuity of its scherzo may find it hard to concur. If the finale strikes us as rather more sectional, it nevertheless draws the threads of the work together with remarkable subtlety.

The opening movement, with its constantly intertwining parts for the two stringed instruments, shows Schumann’s fascination with intricate counterpoint. That fascination reaches a climax in the central development, where the cello introduces a mysterious pizzicato idea which serves to launch an extended passage of quadruple counterpoint whose short motifs are juggled around the trio texture with masterly prestidigitation. The passage comes to a climax over a long-sustained tremolo deep in the bass register of the keyboard; and as the music dies away, the reprise of the main theme emerges imperceptibly, as though it were beginning in mid-stream. The cello’s pizzicato motif makes a fleeting return right at the end of the movement’s quicker coda, allowing the music to die away in a conclusion of scherzo-like transparency.

The slow movement begins in the form of a long, deeply expressive duet for the two stringed instruments. The yearning ascending interval which launches their melody seems to hark back to the lyrical second subject of the opening movement. But the music soon gathers pace, at the same time becoming darker and more dramatic; and a second increase in tempo brings with it an agitated variant of the movement’s opening theme. At the end calm is restored, and the song-like opening theme returns—this time with the pianist at last joining in the melodic discourse.

The agitated scherzo which so impressed Clara Schumann has a turn-like theme rather reminiscent of the main subject of Schumann’s D minor Symphony (No 4). Of its two trio sections, the first, in the major, has a wonderfully expressive syncopated melody rising step-wise until its tension is released in a little group of semiquavers; while the second is a march-like interlude whose dotted rhythm is relieved by a smooth figure in triplet motion. Both trios leave their mark on the finale.

The finale’s main theme arises out of the same yearning interval presented both in the opening movement’s second subject and at the start of the slow movement. As if this undemonstrative means of unifying the work were not enough, the melody of the scherzo’s first trio soon makes a return, to be followed by the march-rhythm of the second trio; while towards the end the smooth triplets from the second trio also reappear, to usher in the work’s exuberant conclusion.

from notes by Misha Donat © 2000

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