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Piano Trio in F minor, Op 65 B130

'Dvořák: Piano Trios Nos 3 & 4' (CDA66895)
Dvořák: Piano Trios Nos 3 & 4
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Movement 1: Allegro ma non troppo
Track 1 on CDA66895 [13'18] Last few CD copies remaining
Movement 2: Allegretto grazioso, meno mosso
Track 2 on CDA66895 [6'08] Last few CD copies remaining
Movement 3: Poco adagio
Track 3 on CDA66895 [9'34] Last few CD copies remaining
Movement 4: Finale: Allegro con brio
Track 4 on CDA66895 [9'52] Last few CD copies remaining

Piano Trio in F minor, Op 65 B130
The F minor Trio, Op 65, composed in 1883, not only signals new directions in Dvorák’s style, but shows evidence of an approaching crisis in his career. In the previous ten years, Dvorák had built a strong reputation in his native Bohemia, much of which had been founded on the composition of opera. His Moravian Duets and the first set of Slavonic Dances had taken his name across Europe in the late 1870s, the result of which in the 1880s was a flood of invitations to compose and conduct new works abroad, especially in England. Inevitably, the pressure on Dvorák was to tame his natural instincts towards something closer to the Austro-German vernacular of his good friend Brahms. Advice from Vienna, albeit well meant, was inclined to nudge Dvorák away from a course of direct, apparently nationally inflected musical style towards something more obviously Brahmsian.

At first sight the Trio in F minor looks as if Dvorák was willing to comply. He composed the work rapidly, but not without difficulty, in February and March 1883. His manuscript indicates that he had considerable trouble in deciding on the final shape of the score and the published version differs substantially from the first draft; Dvorák made numerous changes including altering the order of the middle movements to their present arrangement. The first performance was given on 27 October 1883 in Mladá Boleslav in Bohemia with Dvorák at the piano. A Prague première was given a fortnight later on 13 November by the same performers.

The Brahmsian manner is apparent in the musical rhetoric as an occasional homage, and the older composer’s example may also have prompted the slightly more restless nature of the secondary material in the first movement, a point at which Dvorák normally tended to provide a more sustained and self-contained melodic stretch. There may also be a small debt to a non-Viennese composition, in the shape of the F minor Trio composed in 1872 by the Czech composer, Zdenek Fibich, whose opening idea is strikingly similar to Dvorák’s. But the majority of the work is entirely typical of Dvorák, its powerful tone, clearly evocative of the tragic manner, perhaps prompted by personal circumstances. Just two months before he began work on the Trio, Dvorák’s mother died.

The urgency of the first movement, clear from the very opening, is present throughout with little let-up, even in the more subdued secondary themes. As a foil to the driving energy of the ‘Allegro ma non troppo’, Dvorák provided an intermezzo rather than a full blown scherzo. Although there are moments of great passion in this movement, its main melody has a wistful quality while the middle section provides the first stretch of relaxed lyricism in the work. The ‘Poco adagio’, with its eloquent, almost vocal melody for the cello, returns to the grand manner of the first movement.

The concluding ‘Allegro con brio’ is one of Dvorák’s most effective finales from this period. While it is tempting to see the cross-rhythms of this finale in terms of the Czech furiant, the impression is less of a composer striking a national pose than creating a sense of abstract, restless activity. If folk inflection is to be found, it is in the waltz-like second theme. However disparate these elements may sound, Dvorák maintains an impressive sense of purpose. The resolution of all this activity comes with a magnificently dark reference to the first theme of the first movement before a moment of sweet nostalgia is swept away by a brisk dash to the cadence.

from notes by Jan Smaczny © 1996

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Details for CDA66895 track 2
Allegretto grazioso, meno mosso
Recording date
14 May 1996
Recording venue
Henry Wood Hall, London, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Andrew Keener
Recording engineer
Tony Faulkner
Hyperion usage
  1. Dvorák: Piano Trios Nos 3 & 4 (CDA66895)
    Disc 1 Track 2
    Release date: November 1996
    Last few CD copies remaining
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