Hyperion Records

Trio élégiaque No 1 in G minor
January 1892; first performed by the David Krein, Anatoly Brandukov and the composer in Moscow on 30 January 1892; published in 1947

'Rachmaninov: Piano Trios' (CDH55431)
Rachmaninov: Piano Trios
MP3 £4.99FLAC £4.99ALAC £4.99Buy by post £5.50 CDH55431  Helios (Hyperion's budget label)  
Track 1 on CDH55431 [12'44] Helios (Hyperion's budget label)

Trio élégiaque No 1 in G minor
For reasons which remain unclear, Rachmaninov composed what became his first Trio élégiaque within a few days in January 1892. It may well be that a proposed chamber music recital, arranged in Moscow for 30 January, in which Rachma­ninov, Brandukov and the violinist David Krein were to take part, was the practical impetus for him to write a work which they could all play. In any event, we know that the Prélude from Op 2 (but not, apparently, the Danse orientale) received its first performance on this occasion, as did the Trio élégiaque.

The Trio was not published until 1947 and, sharing the same title as Rachmaninov’s Op 9, was understandably confused with the latter work. Indeed this confusion has lasted until quite recent times, when the qualities of the first Trio have become relatively better known. Although it is, in length, over­shadowed by the later Trio, and as a work of art is not in the same class, Rachmaninov’s G minor Trio élégiaque possesses some admirable qualities, and the work does not deserve to be neglected.

The most striking aspect of this work is how fully charac­teristic it is of Rachmaninov’s later compositional mastery. In this regard we should cite the use to which the opening theme (on the piano, against a gentle accompaniment from the strings) is put. The rising idea, initially of three notes followed by a major third, is constantly varied by the composer: for what might be called the second subject, in D major, the major third is reduced to a second (producing a scale of four rising notes), and in the developmental central section of this one-movement piece it is extended to a fourth. Inversion and other compositional devices are fully explored here, but all of these aspects of methodology are completely integrated into a score of remarkable thematic unity, varied by subtle rhythmic diversity. The structure is relatively straightforward but by no means unsubtle, being based upon sonata form with certain individual elements (for example, the tripartite nature of the second subject). At times, moreover, Rachmaninov misleads the listener into thinking the recapitulation has arrived before it actually has; only with the surprising restatement of the D major theme (in the same key, and in the same manner) are we wholly assured. The coda restores G minor over a lengthy epicedial pedal and, with it, the first truly elegiac statement of the opening theme, in octaves on the strings, before the final piano chords bring the work to its end.

from notes by Robert Matthew-Walker © 2000

Track-specific metadata
Details for CDH55431 track 1
Recording date
12 January 2000
Recording venue
Studio 1, The State House of Broadcasting and Audio-Recording, Moscow, Russia
Recording producer
Alexander Volkov
Recording engineer
Alexander Volkov
Hyperion usage
  1. Rachmaninov: Piano Trios (CDA67178)
    Disc 1 Track 1
    Release date: October 2000
    Deletion date: May 2010
    Superseded by CDH55431
  2. Rachmaninov: Piano Trios (CDH55431)
    Disc 1 Track 1
    Release date: August 2013
    Helios (Hyperion's budget label)
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