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Piano Trio No 2 in F major, Op 80

'Schumann: Piano Trios' (CDA30022)
Schumann: Piano Trios
Buy by post £8.50 CDA30022  Hyperion 30th Anniversary series  
Movement 1: Sehr lebhaft
Track 5 on CDA30022 [7'34] Hyperion 30th Anniversary series
Movement 2: Mit innigem Ausdruck
Track 6 on CDA30022 [7'43] Hyperion 30th Anniversary series
Movement 3: In mässiger Bewegnung
Track 7 on CDA30022 [4'59] Hyperion 30th Anniversary series
Movement 4: Nicht zu rasch
Track 8 on CDA30022 [5'36] Hyperion 30th Anniversary series

Piano Trio No 2 in F major, Op 80
The second of Schumann’s two 1847 piano trios could hardly be more different. It is a work which, as the composer himself said, ‘makes a friendlier and more immediate impression’. Once again Schumann demonstrates his mastery of unity in diversity: the opening movement’s quiet second subject, although it sounds utterly new, is simply a rhythmic variant of the energetic main theme. A staccato idea in the piano which follows it, with strategically placed accents highlighting a sequence of descending thirds, will provide the basis for some intensely contrapuntal argument in the development section; but before it can do so, Schumann introduces a broad new melody – an unmistakable quotation of the song Dein Bildnis wunderselig, from his Eichendorff Liederkreis, Op 39. The melody arises out of an important subsidiary motif which bridges the movement’s two main themes, and Schumann points up the relationship between the two ideas much later on, in the coda. The function of the relaxed song theme at this early stage is to offset the rigorous counterpoint of the section that follows where the staccato idea, with its descending thirds neatly picked out as a counter-subject, is treated in close imitation, both in its original form and in inversion.

No less song-like than the opening movement’s Eichendorff quotation is the long, inspired melody that unfolds in the opening page of the slow movement. Schumann had apparently intended to incorporate a further specific reference to the Eichendorff theme here, though in view of the prominence it has already assumed in the opening movement it was no doubt wise of him to abandon the idea. All the same, the descending shape of the slow movement’s melody provides an oblique reference to the earlier theme. The main melodic line in the opening bars lies in the violin part; but we may note that the cello and the piano play a long-sustained canon, and that the chromatically rising phrase with which the canon begins is one that will assume great importance in the further progress of the piece.

Schumann’s dictum that ‘the best fugue will always be the one that the public takes – for a Strauss waltz; in other words, where the artistic roots are covered as are those of a flower, so that we only perceive the blossom’ is one that could well apply not only to the artless counterpoint of his slow movement, but also to the intermezzo-like third movement, whose sighing theme is given out in canon throughout. The figuration of the more flowing middle section is taken over into the first half of the reprise, before a coda binds the two parts of the piece together.

The finale appears to take its point of departure from the flowing lines of the previous movement’s middle section, too. The entire piece draws its material from the three main constituents of its opening theme: the sinuous legato phrases with which the piano launches the piece; the staccato idea with which the cello responds, and which – as with the similar motif in the opening movement of the D minor Trio – will provide the basis for some close-knit imitative writing later on; and the first assertive phrase on the violin, which returns to form an important secondary theme. This last idea is reiterated over and over again in the coda, to bring the work to a close in an atmosphere of mounting excitement.

from notes by Misha Donat © 1999

Track-specific metadata
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Details for CDA67063 track 5
Sehr lebhaft
Recording date
4 May 1998
Recording venue
St George's, Brandon Hill, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Andrew Keener
Recording engineer
Tony Faulkner
Hyperion usage
  1. Schumann: Piano Trios (CDA30022)
    Disc 1 Track 5
    Release date: October 2010
    Hyperion 30th Anniversary series
  2. Schumann: Piano Trios (CDA67063)
    Disc 1 Track 5
    Release date: February 1999
    Deletion date: May 2013
    Superseded by CDA30022
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