Johannes Brahms (1833-1897): Piano Trio No. 1 in B Major, Opus 8 (1854, revised 1891)

There are two versions of the Trio in B Major the first of which was written in 1853 when Brahms was only twenty. That version was played for nearly four decades but Brahms who was nothing if not a perfectionist revisited the work and revised it so thoroughly that for all practical purposes he recomposed it. Brahms himself said that the revision "did not provide it with a wig, but just combed and arranged its hair a little" but Brahms was given to understatement quite as much as he was given to perfectionism.

It’s in four movements instead of the usual three  :

  1. Allegro 
  2. Scherzo
  3. Adagio
  4. Finale.

with the second-movement (scherzo) making up the extra weight. It’s lenghty – performances take in the region of forty minutes and sophisticated composition with an almost symphonic scope. We get hints of the breadth of the piece right from the start with the long and meditative first movement whose brief piano introduction is followed by a cello solo theme the beauty of which always makes me catch my breath. This theme is taken up by the entire ensemble but instead of developing it in the manner of – say Mozart, Brahms allows the movement to progress  almost as though it were the first movement of symphony he was writing and not a piece of chamber music.  The Scherzo has a minor theme that starts whisper quiet but which rapidly develops into something that’s downright exuberant in major. There’s a second somewhat bucolic theme (still in major mode) that swells to grandiose proportions before being overtaken by the return of the first theme. If you haven’t heard the piece before be prepared for a surprise following which Brahms end the movement dramatically. The adagio is darkly serene with piano stepping chords framing the lovely singing violin phrases and the lenghty cello passage that’s the heart of the movement. And so at last we come to the gloriously expansive finale Brahms uses the piano to create this movement’s symphonic sweep with its syncopation and enormously satisfying conclusion whose scope is breathtakingly huge. It’s performed below by the trio Shaham Erez Wallfisch:

  • Hagai Shaham – violin
  • Arnon Erez – piano
  • Raphael Wallfisch –  cello

Enjoy :-)


Video Source: Brahms: Pianotrio nr. 1 – Trio Shaham Erez Wallfisch – Live concert Published on 14 Jul 2014 by avroklassiek

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