Johannes Brahms – Piano Trio No. 1 Op. 8 (1854)


After spending Christmas with his parents in Hamburg, Brahms settled down to write the Trio in February of 1854. His progress was soon interrupted however, by news of Robert Schumann’s suicide attempt.

The exact nature of the relationship between Brahms and Schumanns has been open to much debate and wild speculation in musical circles and while the precise truth is still unknown, the fact remains that, at the very least, they were close friends. Upon hearing the news, Brahms immediately decamped to Düsseldorf in order to help the Schumann family. It was during this time that the Trio was completed.

Often described as ‘autumnal’ by critics and musicologists, the Trio is melancholy and introspective, its expansive melodies rendered even more beautiful by an underlying sense of emotional agitation. Given the circumstances under which this piece was composed, the sense of unrest is even more poignant.

The juxtaposition of unbridled emotion and strict observation musical form creates an extraordinary tension that would later become Brahms’ compositional calling card.

In addition to being his first major work, the Trio also turned out to be the first of Brahms’ pieces to be heard in the America. The young American pianist William Mason had been studying in Germany and brought the newly published score back to America with him. The premiere was given in New York on 17th November 1855 however the journey was beyond the financial reach of the young Brahms, so it was Mason that played the composer’s part.

Read the full blog article here.

Piano: Menahem Pressler
Violin: Daniel Guilet
Cello: Bernard Greenhouse


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