Franz Schubert (1797-1828): Piano Trio No. 2 in E flat major, D. 929 (Op. 100)

Josef von SpaunSchubert began this the second of only two two full-length piano trios that he composed in November 1827. He seems to have finished it very quickly as its first performance was in January 1828 when Schubert organised a private performance of it to celebrate the the forthcoming marriage of his childhood friend Josef von Spaun. Von Spaun who hailed from a well-to-do Linz family with aristocratic connections was nine years older than Schubert and had been very kind to him when they had both been students at the Imperial Seminary in Vienna. It was Spaun who encouraged him to compose, and it was Spaun who put his money where his mouth was by buying Schubert enough music paper that he always had some available for his increasingly lengthy and complex compositions. Nor did his encouragement and help to Schubert stop there, it was Spaun who introduced Schubert to the three men who had such an impact on his life Mayrhofer, Schober, and Vogl, and it was von Spaun who mounted a vigorous if ultimately unsuccessful campaign to interest Goethe in Schubert’s songs. Schubert greatly appreciated all of this and must have missed his friend and his steadying influence greatly when Spaun left Vienna to begin his career as a civil servant first in Linz and then in Galicia.1

Schubert felt that of the two trios this one was by far the better part of work and I have to say I agree, the Opus 99 piece, the Piano Trio in B flat with its soaring and cheerful melodies is far more unidimensional than its grittier and more involved successor, it’s in four parts:

I.     Allegro
II.     Andante con moto
III.     Scherzo.
IV.     Allegro moderato

is scored for violin, cello and piano and is conceived on a very large scale. The opening Allegro starts traditionally enough but Schubert had the idea of a second subject with an almost obsessive ostinato rhythm which he implemented in the remarkably distant key of B minor. We then hear a third melody which at first seems to be entirely new but which reveals itself as a pendant to the opening theme. The second movement owes its existence to Schubert’s encounter with a Swedish folk singer shortly before he started composing Op. 100 it concludes with a surprisingly passionate outburst. The Scherzo is a delightfully playful piece of canonical writing with the piano and strings imitating each other in a mixture of interlaced two and three part textures that’s very reminiscent of the dances enjoyed by Schubert’s Viennese friends. The trio section with its recollection of one of the darker themes of the first movement is transformed into a somewhat rustic dance by Schubert’s contrapuntal writing. The final movement combines two musical forms the rondo and the sonata with no less than three further melodies before Schubert reintroduces the march theme from the second movement we then hear four separate themes weaving in and out in a display of compositional dexterity before returning once more to the march theme and the trio’s triumphant, and triumphalist, conclusion. It’s performed live below by the Horszowski Trio’s at a performance given as part of the Bard Festival on August 15th, 2014. Enjoy :-)


Video Source: Horszowski Trio LIVE — Schubert Trio No. 2 in E-flat, Op. 100, D. 929 – YouTube. Published on Jan 26, 2015 by Horszowski Trio.

  1. Schubert had hoped to visit von Spaun in Linz but before this could be arranged von Spaun was transferred to Galicia there’s a good English translation of Schubert’s letter to von Spaun here: Letter to Josef von Spaun (1825) – mfi.

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