Piano Trio


piano trio
Mixed Chamber Ensemble
Commissioned by the Koussevitsky Foundation in the Library of Congressand dedicated to the memory of Serge and NatalieKoussevitzky
First Performance
25.5.91, Bath Festival, University Hall, University of Bath: Monticello Piano Trio

Piano score and parts 0-571-51553-3 on sale

Programme Notes

Nicholas Maw Piano Trio Piano Trio was commissioned by the Koussevitsky Foundation in the Library of Congress. This trio is the result of a Koussevitzky Award to write a work for the Monticello Trio. It was completed in January of 1991, and is dedicated to the memory of Serge and Natalie Koussevitzky. The trio is cast in two large-scale movements, each encompassing two movement-types from the classical pattern: Movement I – first movement and scherzo; Movement II – slow movement and finale. The piano opens the works with an extended cantilena in irregular compound metre marked Moderato con moto, un poco inquieto played unaccompanied at two octaves distance, and this is immediately repeated in similar form by the violin and cello. After a climax, a subsidiary theme (derived in part from the opening) is introduced on the violin and handed over to the cello. This leads to a short passage in the nature of a lullaby, which tapers off into a silent pause. The remainder of this first half of the movement consists of a rather free development section that culminates in a tense climax. The tension falls away with a restatement of the second subsidiary theme, and the scherzo part of the movement follows without a break (Presto non assai). This is initiated by the violin playing a running motive – also cast in irregular metre – marked sollot voce e misterioso, and this is immediately answered by the cello. (From this point on to the end of the movement both instruments are muted.) In general, the mood of this scherzo section remains haunted and subdued, though it is occasionally punctuated by short and savage outbursts. It is followed by a coda consisting of a restatement of the lullaby, with a final glimpse of the opening cantilena coming to rest on a fairly unequivocal D minor. The opening slow section of Movement II is a simple three-part structure. The first part, marked Grave e sostenuto is built out of a quiet linear motive on the strings alternating with a similar idea on the piano, though varied by longer note values and filled out with chords in both hands constructed largely of octaves and thirds. This simple idea is extended to form an arch-like shape. The central part develops from a warm cantilena first enunciated by the cello, accompanied by a rising figure in the piano that always finishes with a series of fast repeated notes in the right hand. The third part is a varied reprise of the first, ending with a quiet descant of the opening piano chords that lead straight into the finale section of the movement. This opens with a lyrical theme marked Allegro comodo played by the cello and repeated by the violin. The second idea is a dramatic contrast: and agitated and incisive motive played by all three instruments in a kind of wild heterophonic texture. After a climax that puts the movement squarely in the tonal area of D, the opening melody appears in a much curtailed version that leads on into a stormy development section. This in turn eventually plunges back into the agitated second idea, and this rises to a forceful climax. The work ends with a varied reprise of the movement’s lyrical main theme. Beginning quietly in octaves on the piano against a background of trills on the strings, it gradually gathers momentum to finish in a blaze of D major. Nicholas Maw

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