Brahms: The Complete Chamber Music
CDS44331/42 12CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
Movement 1: Allegro
Movement 2: Andante con moto
Movement 3: Scherzo: Presto
Movement 4: Finale: Allegro giocoso
The opening Allegro of this C major Trio contains an unusual wealth of thematic material: an imperious first subject given out in octaves by the violin and cello alone; a shadowy, chromatic subject (Clara Schumann found this too introverted—she would, she told Brahms, have preferred him to use longer notes); a further smooth idea played by the strings in octaves; and a gracious closing theme in dotted rhythm. The central section finds room to elaborate all of these except the last, and in characteristic fashion Brahms carries the music’s developmental character right through to the reprise of the second subject. There is also a substantial coda in which a sweeping augmented version of the main theme first heard in the development makes a splendid return.
The slow movement is a set of variations on a melancholy theme in A minor which again finds the violin and cello playing in octaves. The theme itself, with its characteristic ‘Scotch snap’ rhythm, shows Brahms’s continued fascination with the Hungarian gypsy style, though the penultimate variation, in the major, transforms it into a smooth, expansive melody of great beauty.
The Scherzo is in the minor, too: a mysterious, fleeting piece whose predominant dynamic marking is pianissimo. Its shadowy character is offset by the C major confidence of the soaring melody in the trio section. As for the finale, it could hardly be more different from that of the Op 8 Trio. It is one of those good-humoured rondos (with more than a hint of variation form thrown in for good measure) at which Brahms was so adept. Much play is made of the staccato repeated-note figure with which the piano accompanies its opening theme; and towards the end the theme reappears in a subdued augmented form, as though in echo of the procedure adopted in the opening movement.
from notes by Misha Donat © 1998