Hyperion Records

Piano Trio in E major, Hob XV:28
published in London in 1797; dedicated to Therese Jansen

'Haydn: Piano Trios, Vol. 2' (CDA67757)
Haydn: Piano Trios, Vol. 2
Buy by post £10.50 CDA67757 
Movement 1: Allegro moderato
Movement 2: Allegretto
Movement 3: Finale: Allegro

Piano Trio in E major, Hob XV:28
The Trio in E major Hob XV:28 is not only a virtuoso work, but also has an exceptionally wide range of expression. The first movement opens with an extraordinary and delicate effect: pizzicato strings with a staccato bass in the piano, while the pianist’s right hand plays a flowing melody ornamented with grace-notes. It evokes the effect of a folk-song in which the singer accompanies herself on the harp. When the pianist repeats this tune with chromatic decoration, it is as if a ‘real’ piano has answered. Energetic rushing scales break the spell, vying with more lyrical phrases until a pause is reached, and the folk-tune returns. Again this is interrupted, and the mood for the rest of the opening section is characteristically witty and good-humoured. The development discusses a selection of the elements that have already appeared, including a version of the folk-tune enlarged to sound more like a chorale. Throughout the movement Haydn makes full use of the capabilities of the English grand pianos—Mrs Bartolozzi must certainly have owned one.

The Allegretto could not be a greater contrast to the first movement. In E minor, it has a continuous creeping bass-line, rather as in a baroque passacaglia. At first all three instruments state the bass together in octaves. Then the piano continues with the line in the bass, while singing an almost operatic melody above it. But this is no ordinary passacaglia: the bass winds its way, evolving and moving from key to key, until it arrives in G major. Here the stringed instruments join in, and the piano’s melody develops an obsession with a dotted-rhythm figure. This leads to a forceful reprise of the melody with which the piano solo began, but now in the bass, with the passacaglia line above. The movement ends with a series of cadenza-like flourishes. The shape of the whole movement is similar to some of J S Bach’s slow movements—such as those in the Italian Concerto and the violin concertos—but with a new dramatic dimension.

The finale is also full of surprises. The opening theme has quirky phrasing which keeps on subverting the three-in-a-bar metre, and just when you expect the first strain to end after a conventional eight bars, it meanders on for an extra four. In the middle section of the movement, the violin strikes off on its own, in E minor. Then, in a passage which must have seemed outrageous to Haydn’s contemporaries, the music slips sideways into the remote key of E flat minor, before thinking better of it and returning to E minor to finish the section. The quirky opening theme returns at the end, twice interrupted by chromatic moments, as if it wishes to return to the slow movement, before two chords bring the work emphatically to a close.

from notes by Robert Philip © 2009

Track-specific metadata
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Details for CDA67757 track 1
Allegro moderato
Recording date
11 February 2009
Recording venue
Henry Wood Hall, London, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Andrew Keener
Recording engineer
Simon Eadon
Hyperion usage
  1. Haydn: Piano Trios, Vol. 2 (CDA67757)
    Disc 1 Track 1
    Release date: October 2009
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