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Piano Trio in A major, R9

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The Piano Trio calls to mind the rich, robust harmonies of Brahms. It is, says Rodrigo, an entirely abstract work, rather than possessing an underlying programme, and like many of his pieces it started life as a piano improvisation. Central to its organic language are the motifs of a falling third (hence, perhaps, the 'Brahmsiness' of its sound) and key relationships based on the interval of a second. Nevertheless, it was not Brahms but, once more, Beethoven that provided the chief model, notably Rodrigo’s study of the modulation schemes in the Piano Sonata, Op 53, the ‘Waldstein’, in which ambiguous twists and turns of context affect the way that harmonic relationships are perceived and in which, as ever, nothing happens by accident. As in the Violin Sonata, the opening movement is spacious and songful; there follows a vigorous scherzo in the minor, which also has a Brahmsian flavour with vivid syncopations and light-fingered piano arpeggios.

The final movement consists of a theme and character variations on a lavish scale. Rodrigo remarks that the variation form is not a natural favourite for him; he still seems slightly surprised at his own inclination towards using it here. ‘I came up with a theme in A major that was thematically connected to the first movement,’ he says, ‘and while im provising on it I was particularly pleased with an idea that became the variation in which the piano is the most prominent instrument, appearing near the end after the Adagio. In order to accommodate this, I chose variation form for the movement.’ Nevertheless, the variations are not numbered and the form is relatively relaxed and flexible: ‘Some variations are more defined than others,’ Rodrigo says, laughing. This typically invigorating update of an ever-popular classical format brings the trio to a rousing conclusion.

from notes by Jessica Duchen © 2021

Recordings

Ruiz: Behold the stars
Studio Master: SIGCD664Download onlyStudio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available

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