Tchaikovsky: Op. 50 A Minor “To the Memory of a Great Artist”
I. Pezzo elegiaco: Moderato assai—Allegro giusto
II. Tema con variazioni
Tema: Andante con moto
Var. 1 Cantabile
Var. 2 Più mosso
Var. 3 Allegro moderato
Var. 4 L’istesso tempo
Var. 5 L’istesso tempo
Var. 6 Tempo di valse
Var. 7 Allegro moderato
Var. 8 Fuga: Allegro moderato
Var. 9 Andante flebile, ma non tanto
Var. 10 Tempo di Mazurka
Var. 11 Moderato
Variazione finale e Coda: Allegro risoluto e con fuoco
The Trio in A Minor, Op. 50, resulted from the confluence of two things in Tchaikovsky’s life. In 1880 his patroness Nadezhda von Meck, was residing in her villa in Florence, where she had at her disposal a resident trio consisting of Petr Danil'chenko (Cello), Władysław Pachulski, (violin), and, as pianist, the young Claude Debussy (he was 18 a the time), whom she called ‘Bussy.’
In a letter of Oct. 18, 1880, she complained to Tchaikovsky: “Why have you never written a single trio? Every day I regret it, for every day trios are played for me and I always complain that you have not written one.” Tchaikovsky responded in a letter of Oct. 26 that, to his ear, the timbres of the three instruments would not blend: “How unnatural is the union of three such individual instruments as the pianoforte, the violin, and the violoncello! Each loses something of its value.” For Tchaikovsky, the violin and cello were overpowered by the piano, and it could not match their lyrical natures.
The second event was the sudden death of Nikolay Rubenstein, brother of Anton and Tchaikovsky’s long time friend and supporter. Tchaikovsky was in Nice when he heard that Rubenstein had died in Paris while being treated for tuberculosis. On March 25th 1881 he wrote to Modeste Tchaikovsky that he had gone to Paris to find that Rubenstein’s body had already been taken to the Russian church.
At some point between March and December Tchaikovsky decided to compose a work dedicated to the memory of Rubenstein. In December 1881, from Rome, he wrote to von Meck: “Do you know what I am writing just now? You will be very much astonished. Do you remember how you once advised me to compose a trio for pianoforte, violin, and violoncello, and my reply, in which I frankly told you that I disliked this combination? Suddenly, in spite of this antipathy I made up my mind to experiment in this form, which so far I have never attempted. The beginning of the trio is finished. Whether I shall carry it through, whether it will sound well, I do not know.” In another letter from Rome on Jan. 25, 1882, Tchaikovsky wrote to von Meck: “The trio is finished. Now I can say with some conviction that the work is not bad.” Still, he fretted, “I may have arranged music of a symphonic character as a trio, instead of writing directly for my instruments.” He needn’t have worried!
The work is composed of two large movements. The opening Pezzo elegiaco is cast in a large-scale sonata form with aspects of the rondo. There is new thematic material in the development and a very compressed recapitulation brings back both exposition themes and the new theme of the development.
The second movement, long enough to be a separate piece in its own right, comprises a theme and twelve variations. It has been said, on very little evidence, that the variations are recollections, in some way, of aspects of Rubenstein’s life. This may be so, although variations using characteristics of the music box (Var. 5), the waltz (Var. 6), the fugue (Var. 8) and the mazurka (Var. 10) are not unique—one think immediately of Brahms Variations and Fugue on a Theme by G. F. Handel. The twelfth variation opens with a greatly modified version of the theme, and continues as a concluding fast movement should. It is only at the end that the whole of the variation movement is related to the first movement through a lengthy repetition (Andante con moto) of the opening theme of the work.
Haydn Trio in G Major, Piano, Violin, Cello Hob. XV, No. 25
Finale. Rondo all’Ongarese. Presto
The medium of the keyboard trio occupied Haydn throughout his creative life. There are, according to the most reliable count, 45 of them, and, like the more numerous symphonies and string quartets, constitute a record of his stylistic development. The earliest date from the very late 1750s, during Haydn’s employment with Count Morzin. In these works, the keyboard instrument was probably the harpsichord, a flute could substitute for the violin, and the cello reinforced the bass part of the keyboard. The last trios come from Haydn’s London of the 1790s. Here the keyboard instrument was definitely the fortepiano, the use of the violin is unequivocal, and cello has acquired a modest degree of independence independence.
The G Major Trio is the 39th of the 45 trios. It was published in October 1795, after Haydn’s first trip to London, and is the second of three trios dedicated to the widow of the composer Johann Samuel Schroeter, London keyboardist Rebecca Schroeter, with whom Haydn carried out an amorous exchange of letters.
The format differs quite a bit from the 3-movement sequence familiar from sonatas and concertos. Instead of the expected sonata-allegro beginning, the trio opens with a set of subtly constructed variations. Some of them are figural variations clearly related to the theme, while others are slightly different from the theme in harmonic pattern, phrase structure, and length. In the second movement, an opening binary form in major is followed by a ternary form in minor, and concludes with a repeat of the opening material, but without repeats. The qualifier ‘Ongarese’ in the Rondo refers to musical elements that signaled Haydn’s Hungarian style: syncopations, drones, and percussive effects. This movement was especially popular in Haydn’s day, and exists in arrangements for 2 violins, and also for solo keyboard.