Piano Trio in G minor Op.15

Composer: Bedrich Smetana (b. 1824 - d. 1884)
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Composer: Bedrich Smetana (b. 1824 - d. 1884)

Performance date: 28/06/2023

Venue: Bantry House

Composition Year: 1855

Duration: 00:27:25

Recording Engineer: Tom Norton, RTÉ

Instrumentation: vn, vc, pf

Instrumentation Category:Piano Trio

Artists: Trio Gaspard - [vn, vc, pf]

Piano Trio in G minor Op.15 [1855]

  1. Moderato assai
  2. Allegro ma non agitato – Andante – Maestoso
  3. Finale: Presto

Smetana’s only Piano Trio was written in the autumn of 1855 after the tragic death of two of his young daughters. The loss of the four-year-old Bedřiška, who was already musically gifted, moved the composer to write this work in her memory. The second subject of the first movement was the favourite tune of the little girl. Another daughter died the following year and in 1859 his wife Kateřina died of tuberculosis. All his life he was plagued by financial problems and, like Schumann, he died in an insane asylum. So we should not be surprised to find his music suffused with tragedy and marked by outbursts of fury at the incessant blows of fate.

The first movement begins with a cri de coeur from the violin and, when the other instruments join in, it leads with the main theme, which expands on the mood of tragic despair. There is a long preparation for the introduction of Bedřiška’s theme, which is introduced by the cello with piano support before being passed to the violin. A third section follows building on a scrap from the first subject group and working it quickly into an exhilarating but agonised climax. We then return to the opening and the same ideas are vigorously developed before coming to a gentle conclusion and leading into the recapitulation including a reprise of Bedřiška’s theme. The tragic atmosphere is heightened in the stark and savage coda.

There is no slow movement though the two interludes in the scherzo-like Allegro are quite lengthy.  The first of them quotes Bedřiška’s theme again and Smetana develops it obsessively though with much gentleness. The second interlude is a maestoso funeral march that encloses music of great tenderness along with outbursts of raw grief. The presto finale takes off with tremendous verve as if determined to leave all sorrow behind, but some ominous chords from the piano announce the return of the lost daughter’s theme. She returns once more but the image is fading.

Francis Humphrys