Piano Trio

Piano Trio

In 1829-1830, Paganini and Hummel visited Warsaw and gave Chopin a taste of a larger world of music and experience. The young composer soon left for a quick trip to Berlin followed by a longer trip to Vienna. It was in Vienna in 1829 that Chopin made his debut on the international stage, to great acclaim. These were busy days, composing and performing, with uncertainty about the next move always lurking. Nevertheless, this was an important time for Chopin, as he was developing his own style, forming important connections, and making a name for himself.

Chopin’s only Piano Trio dates from this period. He composed it over the years 1828 and 1829. In style, it is fairly conservative, following Classical models. Chopin seemed to have an affinity for the cello, but no special passion for the violin. This is in fact Chopin’s only chamber work that features the instrument. (After the Trio was completed, Chopin considered re- orchestrating the piece to include viola rather than violin, but never made the change.) The first movement, marked Allegro con fuoco, is determined and dramatic. All three participants get to participate in the fast passagework in turn, although the piano is clearly the focal point at times. Chopin favored contrasts, of course, and the subsequent scherzo provides a gentle and pleasant respite. The following slow movement has lyrical melodies and affords the violin and cello a chance to share their expressive gifts. In the second half of the movement, the trio seems to hesitate, uncertain how to finish, but the long melodies return and bring the movement to an end. The final movement begins with a passage for the piano alone, but soon the violin and cello appear, imitating the opening theme and passing it around. The ending returns us to the dramatic mood of the beginning. After its publication, the Piano Trio received a favorable review from Robert Schumann, but it was soon overshadowed by Chopin’s exquisite solo piano work.