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Trio for flute, cello and piano in G minor, J259 Op 63
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Recordings
'Weber: Chamber Music' (CDA67464)
Weber: Chamber Music
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Movement 1: Allegro moderato
Movement 2: Scherzo: Allegro vivace
Movement 3: Schäfers Klage: Andante espressivo
Movement 4: Finale: Allegro

Trio for flute, cello and piano in G minor, J259 Op 63
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On 25 July 1819 Weber completed the Trio for flute, cello and piano in G minor, J259, in Hosterwitz, his peaceful summer residence up the Elbe above Dresden. It had its first playthrough in the Spohrs’ house on 21 November, when, he noted in his diary, ‘it went very well, and came off just as I wanted’. The work’s origins have been the subject of some confusion, but it was possibly written as a souvenir of convivial musical evenings during Weber’s Prague years, from 1813 to 1816, spent with two of his closest friends, the composer Johann Gänsbacher and his doctor Philipp Jungh. Gänsbacher was a good violist and cellist, and had toured with Jungh, whom he praises in his memoirs as a fine flautist.

As always with Weber, the opening movement has a highly personal approach to sonata form. It is melodically rich, with a graceful opening theme and a gentle second subject, a figure in octaves between cello and piano that comes to dominate the entire movement. Though the warm and impassioned development section begins with the second subject, and brings with it yet another new melody in the major key, it is with the opening theme that the movement ends. The Scherzo has no real trio section, but contrasts a violent, drumming theme in the minor with a graceful major-key flute melody for which Weber might have found room in his next work, Invitation to the Waltz. It is, however, the pounding piano octave theme that concludes the movement.

Unlike the other movements, the Andante has no diary date, suggesting that Weber may have made use of an earlier piece, perhaps one composed in Prague. The title ‘Schäfers Klage’ (‘Shepherd’s Lament’) refers to Goethe’s poem of 1802 about a lovelorn shepherd, set by many composers including Schubert. It was published in 1804 by the Weimar singer and actor Wilhelm Ehlers in a collection of guitar songs, upon which Weber based his subtly improved melody. Ehlers’ version also clearly suggested the strumming piano accompaniment to Weber, himself a proficient guitarist. The thematic richness of the work takes a new form with the Finale, which compresses into its eight opening bars a wide-ranging piano line and its answer in the bass, together with some trills that anticipate Caspar’s drinking flourish in Der Freischütz. The immediate answer is not development of them, but a completely new tune from the flute. This melodic profusion, in all its variety, permeates the movement, and it is in the extremes of contrast that the essence of the whole work lies. Even within a classical framework, Weber’s Romantic imagination is running high. That September, a few weeks after completing the Trio, he resumed work on the interrupted Der Freischütz.

from notes by John Warrack © 2005

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