Movement 1: Allegro ma non troppo
Movement 2: Allegretto grazioso, meno mosso
Movement 3: Poco adagio
Movement 4: Finale: Allegro con brio
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