Piano Trio No.3 in F minor Op.65

Composer: Antonin Dvořák (b. 1841 - d. 1904)
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Composer: Antonin Dvořák (b. 1841 - d. 1904)

Performance date: 26/06/2022

Venue: Bantry House

Composition Year: 1883

Duration: 00:41:48

Recording Engineer: Eduardo Prado, Ergodos

Instrumentation: vn, vc, pf

Instrumentation Category:Piano Trio

Artists: Mairead Hickey - [violin]
Ella van Poucke - [cello]
Nathalia Milstein - [piano]

Antonín Dvořák [1841-1904]

Piano Trio no 3 in F minor Opus 65 [1883]

1. Allegro ma non Troppo – Poco piu mosso, quasi vivace

2. Allegro grazioso – Meno mosso

3. Poco Adagio

4. Finale: Allegro con brio – Meno mosso – Vivace

Dvořák’s success as a composer was first established during the 1870s. This success was based on music with strong Czech or Slav roots. His operas all had librettos in Czech and by far his most popular works were Slavonic Dances and Rhapsodies. By the early 1880s his success as a Czech composer had begun to grate with audiences in Vienna. His third Slavonic Dances had not been well received and Hans Richter, the conductor of the Vienna Philharmonic, repeatedly postponed the first Viennese performance of Dvorak’s Sixth Symphony.  

Dvořák was torn between his allegiance to his homeland and his admiration for German music. He really did not wish to have to choose between Prague and Vienna and in his music, he would always combine both German and Czech influences. Around 1883-5, his music became more German in character. Whether this was, as some commentators have suggested, an attempt to improve relations with Vienna or whether it was for simply artistic reasons, it is hard to tell. For whatever reason, the music Dvořák composed in this period is considered some of the finest he ever wrote; in particular the Seventh Symphony and the F minor Piano Trio.

In December 1882, Dvořák’s mother had died. This Piano Trio was written in the early months of 1883. Its serious and tempestuous character suggests that it was the composer’s response to her death. The first movement of the trio is the longest and most substantial. It begins softly on the strings. Soon we are thrown into a turbulent, romantic world of drama and passion. Dvořák often combines the violin and cello either playing in unison or an octave apart. This means they can balance the piano even at full volume. This Trio is often considered to be Brahmsian. But even Brahms would have been hard put to match this music in terms of passion and turbulence. 

The second movement which plays the role of a traditional scherzo was originally placed third. Dvořák rightly realised that some kind of relief was needed after the first movement. Since this movement is in two time rather than three, it can hardly be considered a dance. Minor keys still predominate but the mood is generally more relaxed.

The poco adagio is considered one of his finest slow movements. The opening two ideas, the first solemn, the second less so, provide him with the material for the whole movement. For much of the time, the violin and cello either play in unison as before or in canon. In some of the most poignant passages, the violin sings in a high register accompanied by broken chords on the piano. The solo piano introduces an exquisite coda. Here calm and rest are finally achieved.

The Finale combines German rigour with Czech charm. It is in three time although this is not obvious from the opening theme. Later on in the movement, Dvořák introduces a woozy waltz before returning to more rigorous musical development. The emotional turmoil of the first movement is largely, if not completely forgotten, as this magnificent piano trio ends with a vivace flourish.

David Winter