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

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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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Johannes Brahms – Piano Trio No. 1 (1854)

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The Piano Trio in B major, Op. 8, by Johannes Brahms was composed during 1854. The composer produced a revised version of the work in 1889. It is scored for piano, violin and cello, and it is the only work of Brahms to exist today in two published versions, although it is almost always the revised version that we hear performed today. Among the piano trios known to have been written by Brahms it is the only one that ends in a minor key. It is also among the few multi-movement works to begin in a major key and end in the tonic minor (another example being Mendelssohn’s Italian Symphony).

The trio is in four movements.

Nicholas Angelich (piano), Renaud Capuçon (violin), Gautier Capuçon (cello) perform Johannes Brahms Piano Trio no.1 in B major. Recording in Chambéry, Auditorium de la Cité des Arts, 20-22 December 2003. EMI Records Ltd/ Virgin Classics.