Hyperion Records

Piano Trio in E flat major, Hob XV:30
probably the last lasy Piano Trio Haydn wrote; first published by Artaria of Vienna in 1797

'Haydn: Piano Trios, Vol. 2' (CDA67757)
Haydn: Piano Trios, Vol. 2
Movement 1: Allegro moderato
Movement 2: Andante con moto
Movement 3: Presto

Piano Trio in E flat major, Hob XV:30
Despite its position in Hoboken’s catalogue the Trio in E flat major Hob XV:30 is now thought likely to be the last piano trio that Haydn composed. On 9 November 1796 he wrote to the publisher Breitkopf that he was sending the promised sonata ‘at last’. In the event, it was Artaria in Vienna who published the first edition, in 1797. This work was not dedicated to a particular pianist, and the level of difficulty of the piano part is noticeably less extreme than in the trios written for known virtuosi, though still with some tricky passages, and showing Haydn’s usual high level of imagination.

The opening theme is unusually expansive for Haydn, and rather reminiscent of the beginning of Mozart’s second piano quartet K493, in the same key. And, like Mozart, Haydn pours out an unusually large number of different ideas, and takes them in unexpected directions. There are two quite separate themes before we have left E flat major. And then, where a sudden chromatic shifting of keys leads us to expect the second main theme, Haydn instead returns to his first idea, and develops it further in B flat major. From there he moves gently into B flat minor, and at last we do get a new theme; though this too is derived from a phrase earlier in the movement. The development begins with a much more Haydnesque surprise, a sudden lurch into C flat major. Here the first two ideas are subjected to some informal counterpoint before the piano launches into running passages, over a chord sequence that gradually brings us closer to the home key. But instead of leading seamlessly back to E flat, as Mozart would probably have done, Haydn presents us with another harmonic surprise to get us back to the home key for the reprise.

The slow movement, in three-time, has the tread and formality of a courtly dance in C major, with its two parts repeated. Then a middle section forgets the dance, becoming animated and conversational. It is the piano that calls the instruments back to the solemnity of the dance, and it recommences as if nothing had interrupted it. But almost immediately the animated running scales of the middle section break through, and the dance is once again forgotten. There is another moment when the dance is recalled, leading to a pause on a chord of G major as if we are about to return to the dance proper. But instead, Haydn launches straight back to E flat, and into the finale. This too is a dance in three-time, but fast, with a frequent off-beat ‘kick’ and an insistent character that makes it sound rather like Beethoven. A middle section takes us into a brusque E flat minor, with a yet more insistent motif. At the end of this section, Haydn returns to E flat major not by the obvious route, simply moving from minor to major, but on a detour via B major. The music could be heading almost anywhere, but suddenly we turn a corner and find ourselves back at the opening theme. With a boisterous conclusion, Haydn bids farewell to the ‘accompanied piano sonata’. Other composers continued to supply the market for this popular genre for some years to come. But by the time Haydn wrote this last example, his pupil Beethoven had published his three piano trios Op 1, and the ensemble of piano, violin and cello had been set on a dramatically new path into the nineteenth century.

from notes by Robert Philip © 2009

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