Martinu wrote two string trios during his Paris years. The first dates from 1923 and remains little known. String Trio No 2, on the other hand, is a work of his early maturity, written in 1934 about the time that Martinu was becoming internationally known for operas such as The Miracle of Our Lady
and Comedy on a Bridge
. It was composed for and dedicated to the Trio Pasquier, who gave the premiere in a concert in Paris on 15 February 1935. The Trio is in a somewhat unusual two-movement form; in several of his works Martinu seems to consciously avoid writing a full-blown slow movement and creates instead a diptych of movements in moderate to fast tempos, perhaps with a slow introductory section or episode in one or both. Both movements display his characteristically florid melodic writing in rich contrapuntal textures and driving rhythms, derived partly from Czech folk music but also from the music of the late Baroque period. In fact more than one critic has pointed out that the work could be considered a ‘triple concerto without orchestra’.
The first movement is a busy, bustling Allegro in Martinu’s familiar neoclassical vein that contrasts a highly rhythmic main subject with a more relaxed and lyrical subsidiary one. The development section includes a magical, floating passage featuring high harmonics in the violin and a long, ruminative episode preceding the return of the main theme. The second and concluding movement begins with a slow introduction featuring fragmentary solos for viola and cello, but the main part of the movement is again a vigorous sonata form with a typical alternation between a swift-moving, energetic first theme and a more lyrical, song-like second idea, the whole work eventually coming to a brilliant, extrovert close.
from notes by Calum MacDonald © 2005