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Radiant violinist Janine Jansen enthralls listeners with her gorgeous vibrato and glowing tone. In a rare U.S. tour, the Dutch violinist is joined by longtime colleagues for a program of Russian works, including Rachmaninoff's dark and turbulent Trio élégiaque.

“[Jansen’s] performance was a tour de force not only of technical prowess, but of a highly stimulated and fiery imagination.” —The Times (UK)

Please note that this concert will take place at Baltimore Hebrew Congregation.  Learn more here.

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    Janine Jansen

    With an enviable international reputation, violinist Janine Jansen works regularly with the world’s most eminent orchestras and conductors.  This season she is Artist-in-Residence at the London Symphony Orchestra (Gianandrea Noseda, Antonio Pappano and Valery Gergiev) complemented by a residency at Wigmore Hall, as well as Artist-in-Residence at the Philharmonie Luxembourg, where she will give both concerto and chamber performances.  

    This season, Jansen performs with the Vienna Philharmonic (Sakari Oramo), Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia (Antonio Pappano) and also the Orchestre National de Belgique (Andrey Boreyko) which includes a memorial concert for Philipp Hirshhorn.  She will extensively tour Europe with the NHK Symphony Orchestra (Paavo Jarvi) as well as visit Asia with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (Daniele Gatti).

    A devoted chamber musician, Jansen will perform a number of recitals throughout Europe with pianist Alexander Gavrylyuk.  She will also perform various chamber music programmes together with Lucas Debargue, Torleif Thedéen, Martin Fröst and Boris Brovtsyn. As part of the Crescendo Programme in Norway she will collaborate with a number of talented young musicians at Bergen Festival. 

    Jansen records exclusively for Decca Classics and since recording Vivaldi’s Four Seasons back in 2003 she has been extremely successful in the digital music charts. Her latest release, conducted by Antonio Pappano, features Bartok’s Violin Concerto No. 1 with London Symphony Orchestra and Brahms’ Violin Concerto with the Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia.  Other highlights of her discography include a recording of Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No.2 with London Philharmonic Orchestra and Vladimir Jurowski, Beethoven and Britten with Paavo Järvi, Mendelssohn and Bruch with Riccardo Chailly, Tchaikovsky with Daniel Harding as well as an album of Bach Concertos with her own ensemble. Jansen has also released a number of chamber music discs, including Schubert’s String Quintet and Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht and Sonatas by Debussy, Ravel and Prokofiev with pianist Itamar Golan.

    Jansen has won numerous prizes, including four Edison Klassiek Awards, four ECHO Klassik awards, the Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik, NDR Musikpreis for outstanding artistic achievement and the Concertgebouw Prize. She has been given the VSCD Klassieke Muziekprijs for individual achievement and the Royal Philharmonic Society Instrumentalist Award for performances in the UK.  In September 2015 she was awarded the Bremen MusikFest Award. Jansen studied with Coosje Wijzenbeek, Philipp Hirshhorn and Boris Belkin.

    Thirteen years after establishing the hugely successful International Chamber Music Festival in Utrecht, Jansen stepped down from her position as Artistic Director in June 2016 and named cellist Harriet Krijgh as her successor.

    Janine Jansen plays the 1707 Stradivarius “Rivaz - Baron Gutmann” violin kindly on loan from Dextra Musica.

    "Janine is breathtakingly supreme." —The Telegraph

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    Alexander Gavrylyuk

    Born in 1984, Alexander Gavrylyuk began his piano studies at the age of seven and gave his first concerto performance when he was nine years old.  He went on to win First prize and Gold Medal at the 1999 Horowitz International Piano Competition, First Prize at the Hamamatsu International Piano Competition in Japan in 2000 where the Japanese press lauded him as the “most talented 16-year old pianist of the second half of the 20th Century” and, in 2005, he took both the coveted Gold Medal as well as the award for Best Performance of a Classical Concerto at the internationally renowned Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Masters Competition. 

    Following his debut in 2010 with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra Gavrylyuk has returned to Amsterdam each year, either in recital in the Master Pianist’s Series, with the RCO or as part of the Zatertaag Matinee at the Concertgebouw. He is now increasingly in demand by orchestras and conductors for his noble and compelling interpretations and has appeared with, among others, the Philharmonic Orchestras of New York, Los Angeles, Warsaw, Moscow, Israel and Rotterdam as well as the Royal Scottish National, NHK Symphony, Bournemouth Symphony, Cincinnati Symphony, Gothenburg Symphony, Hallé, Stuttgarter Philharmoniker, the Netherlands Philharmonic, San Antonio Symphony, Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana, Brussels Philharmonic, the Vancouver Symphony, Sao Paolo Symphony and OFUNAM. He has collaborated with conductors such as Vladimir Ashkenazy, Alexandre Bloch, Herbert Blomstedt, Andrey Boreyko, Vladimir Fedoseyev, Valery Gergiev, Neeme Järvi, Vladimir Jurowski, Kirill Karabits, Louis Langrée, Sebastian Lang-Lessing, Gianandrea Noseda, Vassily Petrenko, Rafael Payare, Alexander Shelley, Yuri Simonov, Herbert Soudant, Vladimir Spivakov, Markus Stenz and Osmo Vänska. His solo recitals are also highly acclaimed and he has performed in venues such as Vienna Musikverein, Wigmore Hall, Tonhalle Zurich and Victoria Hall Geneva.

    Alexander has received critical acclaim for his thrilling performances of Rachmaninov. He has performed the complete Rachmaninov concerti cycle and the Rhapsody with both the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande and Neeme Järvi (May 2013) and as part of the Vancouver Symphony’s Rachmaninov Festival in March 2014 with Bramwell Tovey. 

    He regularly visits Japan and Asia, performing with orchestras such as NHK Symphony and Seoul Philharmonic as well as regular recital tours, often playing to sell-out audiences in Suntory Hall and Tokyo Opera City. He returns to Russia on a regular basis and has performed with the Russian National Philharmonic under Vladimir Spivakov and the Svetlanov Russian State Symphony Orchestra, as well as recitals at the Great Hall of Moscow Conservatory and at the Kremlin.

    At the age of 13, Alexander moved to Sydney where he lived until 2006. He has performed with all the main Australian orchestras including Melbourne and Sydney Symphonies, returning each year for concerts and recitals. In 2009 he made an acclaimed recording of the complete Prokofiev Concerti with Vladimir Ashkenazy and the Sydney Symphony which was recorded live at the Sydney Opera House. In addition to the Prokofiev cycle, he has made several recordings including recital discs of works by Rachmaninov, Schumann, Scriabin, Mussorgsky, Prokofiev for Piano Classics. His most recent recording, a recital disc featuring Brahms Paganini Variations and works by Liszt has been widely praised.

    Highlights of the 2016-17 season include concerto performances with Valeriy Gergiev and the Rotterdam Philharmonic as part of the Gergiev Festival, Netherlands Radio Philharmonic, Vancouver Symphony, Orchestre National d’Ile de France, Concertgebouworkest, Utah Symphony and a tour of Asia with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra amongst others. He will make his debut at the International Piano Series in London as well as giving solo recitals throughout Europe and North America and appearing in duo recital with Janine Jansens throughout Europe. Alexander will also undertake an extensive tour of Australia, including concerto appearances with Adelaide Symphony, Tasmania Symphony & West Australian Symphony Orchestra.

    Alexander supports a number of charities including Theme and Variations Young Pianist Trust which aims to provide support and encouragement to young, aspiring Australian pianists as well as Opportunity Cambodia, which has built a residential educational facility for Cambodian children.

    Alexander is a Steinway Artist and more information is available on his website www.alexandergavrylyuk.com.

    "Gavrylyuk is as vivid and characterful as he is dexterous." —Gramophone

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    Torleif Thedéen

    Torleif Thedéen is one of the most highly regarded musicians in Scandinavia.  He gained international recognition in 1985 by winning three of the worlds most prestigious cello competitions.

    Since then he has been giving concerts all over the world. Thedéen regularly plays not only with all the leading orchestras in Scandinavia, but also with some of the world’s major orchestras, among them the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Berlin Symphony Orchestra, Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra, Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra, and Israel Sinfonietta, under conductors like Esa-Pekka Salonen, Paavo Berglund, Neeme Järvi, Franz Welser-Möst, Gennady Rozhdestvensky, Leif Segerstam, and Eri Klas.

    Torleif Thedéen is also active as a chamber musician, and as such appears in prestigious concert venues worldwide such as Wigmore Hall in London, the Carnegie Recital Hall in New York and the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. He often participates in prestigious Music Festivals, among them the Verbier Festival (2007, 2009), Prague Spring Festival, the festival in Schleswig-Holstein, festivals in in Bordeaux, Oslo, Bath, Stavanger and Kuhmo.

    Since 1986 Thedéen has recorded numerous CD’s for BIS, featuring standard repertoire works as well as contemporary music. His CD with the Shostakovich Cello Concertos won the Cannes Classical Award in 1995, and his recording of J.S. Bach’s Solo Suites for solo cello was highly received when it was released in 2000 (Editor’s choice in BBC Music magazine, Nov 2001). In 2002 his recording of Dvorak’s cello concerto was released.

    In 2005-06 he made a very successful debut with the Rotterdam Philharmonic (Schumann), he has toured with soloists like Julian Rachlin, Janine Jansen to European festivals, and returned to New Zeeland, and Australia in 2006-07.  He also toured Scandinavia and England with the Musica Vitae chamber orchestra from Sweden in Oct 2006.

    In 2007-08 Mr Thedéen has toured extensively worldwide with Janine Jansen and Maxim Rysanov, following their recording made by DECCA. He performed with the Tokyo Metropolitan Orchestra in Nov 2007.

    2008-09 he has successfully performed with London Philharmonic Orchestra (Mario Venzago) in London, toured with the BBC Wales SO, and recorded for cpo with NDR Orchestra in Hannover, Germany. He  performed in Musikverein in Vienna, as a soloist in Beethovens Tripple Concerto with Wiener Symphoniker (Jan 09), and in France with Orchestre Philharmonique de Bordeaux.  In 2009 he was invited back to the Chamber Music Festival in Verbier, Switzerland.

    2009-10 included a.o. a Gala Concert in Geneva (Beethoven Triple Concerto with Vienna Symphony), as well as returns to the Stockholm Philharmonic (Kamu) and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra (Saraste), and Helsinki Philharmonic (Storgaards). In 2010-11 he performed Dutilleux Cello Concerto with Stuttgart Philh and return to NDR Hannover, and Dortmund. The season also included Brahms Double Concerto with Janine Jansen and the Hallé Orchestra in Manchester, concerts in Birmingham (CBSO), Finland, Spain, and Chamber Music tour (Wigmore Hall, Carnegie Hall etc)  with fellow soloists Andsnes, Hamelin, Kraggerud, Tomter, Fröst a.o. 

    In March 2011 he performed Bloch Schelomo with the ORF/RSO Orchestra in Vienna, substituting for Heinrich Schiff on short notice.

    In 2011-12 there were several concerts with Janine Jansen and Max Rysanov, including London (Wigmore Hall), Salzburg Festival, Istanbul, a.o., and concerts with pianist Roland Pöntinen (Berlin, Stockholm a.o), orchestra concerts in Germany, Scandinavia etc.. He participated in the Martha Argerich Chamber Festival in Lugano in June 2012, and returned to the Verbier Festival in June same year.

    2014-15 and 2015-16  Torleif Thedéen returned to New Zealand and Australia, in addition to several European venues. In 2016 Thedéen was back to Stockholm and Helsinki Phil, performed with Hamburg Symphony a.o.  2016-17 he returns to New Zealand and Australia for Chamber Music festivals and orchestra concerts. Chamber Music tours include returns to Verbier, Carnegie Hall, Berlin, London (Wigmore Hall) a.o.  In Sept 2017 he plays Elgar in Moscow.

    Torleif Thedéen served as Professor at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Copenhagen 1992-96. Since 1996 he is Professor at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Stockholm.

    He plays the ex-Lynn Harrel cello by David Techler from 1711.

    "Torleif Thedéen…one of our most admired and loved artists." —Svenska Dagbladet

Dmitry Shostakovich (1906-1975)

Piano Trio No. 1, Op. 8

View Notes

Shostakovich has a special place in the annals of twentieth-century Russian music. Unlike Prokofiev, Rachmaninoff, and Stravinsky, he didn’t come of age before the Bolshevik Revolution and immerse himself in Western culture. And unlike younger composers such as Alfred Schnittke and Sofia Gubaidulina, he didn’t live to see the fall of the regime that had muzzled artistic experimentation in the name of sterile “socialist realism.” Outwardly, Shostakovich remained a loyal citizen of the Soviet Union, alternately lionized and demonized by the Communist Party’s cultural apparatchiks. Yet throughout his life, the highly strung composer played an elaborate game of feint and attack with the Soviet establishment, cannily balancing his more abrasive, cutting-edge music with a stream of reassuringly patriotic and artistically conservative works. As a result, his output veers wildly between mordent satire (for instance, the opera The Nose and the ballet The Age of Gold), patriotic bombast (the Second Symphony and the symphonic poem October, both eulogizing the 1917 Revolution), and bleak alienation (almost any of his fifteen string quartets).

Born in 1906, Shostakovich came of age in the 1920s, during the brief halcyon period of the workers’ state. But his incorrigible political cynicism, and his contempt for the proletarian pap encouraged by the authorities in the Kremlin, repeatedly landed him in hot water. The international success of the Leningrad Symphony—composed during the Nazi siege of Leningrad in World War II and widely hailed as a symbol of Russian resistance—finally brought him a measure of security. In the “thaw” that followed Stalin’s death in 1953, Shostakovich reached a precarious entente with his political masters, who needed his support almost as much as he needed theirs. He traveled abroad, established contact with Benjamin Britten and other Western composers, and achieved performances of his works that had long been suppressed. With acute misgivings, he even accepted a number of official posts, becoming secretary of the state-run composers’ union and belatedly joining the Communist Party.

Fundamentally tonal, but laced with dissonant harmonies and kinetic energy, Shostakovich’s music epitomizes the turbulent, existentialist spirit of the “Age of Anxiety.” He was a precocious seventeen-year-old pupil at the Leningrad Conservatory when he wrote his first piece of chamber music in 1923. As a student work, the Piano Trio in C minor, Op. 8, has neither the brooding intensity of its better-known sequel—the Piano Trio No. 2 of 1944, with its dark humor and savage dance of death—nor the symphonic richness of the composer’s masterful string quartets. Even so, the hallmarks of Shostakovich’s mature style are already apparent in the Trio’s insistent ostinato rhythms and slithering chromatic motives, its spare textures and wayward harmonies.

Teachers and critics were unanimous in their praise of Shostakovich’s piano playing at the conservatory. (Not surprisingly, the piano part of the Trio is a good deal more demanding, technically, than the violin and cello parts.) As a composer, however, he received mixed reviews from the more conservative members of the faculty, whom he privately dismissed as “stupid formalists,” much as he himself would be officially censured for bourgeois “formalism” in 1948. Shostakovich’s composition teacher, Maximilian Steinberg, grumbled about his persistent “enthusiasm for the grotesque” and called for revisions in the Trio that the budding genius stubbornly refused Perhaps as a result of his inflexibility, the work would remain unpublished until after Shostakovich’s death.

The grotesque element becomes prominent in Shostakovich’s later music, where it often has a dark, sardonic edge. Not so in the Op. 8 Trio, or Poème, as it was billed for its first performance at the conservatory by Shostakovich and two fellow students in December 1923. The short single movement is notable not for its biting introspection but for its extroverted buoyancy. Commentators have variously attributed the work’s high-spirited lyricism to the uplifting environment of Petrograd (in fact, it was largely written in the Crimea, where Shostakovich was convalescing from tuberculosis) or to the composer’s youthful romance with Tatyana Glivenko, the daughter of a prominent Moscow philologist, to whom the Trio is dedicated. Whatever the explanation, the music is suffused with warmth, self-confidence, and ebullient energy.

—Harry Haskell, © 2017

Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953)

Violin Sonata No. 2 in D major, Op. 94bis

View Notes

Prokofiev spent much of his life perched precariously between two chairs, his music being regarded as too stylistically advanced by some, and by others as too conservative. He rose to fame before World War I as a leader of the Russian avant-garde on the strength of such driving, acerbically dissonant works as the Scythian Suite—Prokofiev’s answer to Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring—and his Second Piano Concerto, both written in his early 20s. During the war, he tapped a more poetic vein in smaller-scale works like the delicately impressionistic Visions fugitives for solo piano. At the same time, he anticipated the clear-textured neoclassicism of the 1920s in his effervescent Classical Symphony, which he described as the kind of music Haydn would have written if he had lived in the early twentieth century.

Something of a political naïf, Prokofiev took no part in the uprisings that swept across Russia in 1917-18, which he tended to regard as a bothersome distraction from his creative work. Immediately after the Bolshevik Revolution, he received permission to emigrate from the Soviet Union and flung himself in the competitive, cosmopolitan culture of the West. In the musical capitals of Europe he soon found himself eclipsed by his fellow émigré Stravinsky, while in the U.S. he shared the limelight with Rachmaninoff, another Russian pianist powerhouse. Many of his best-loved works date from this period of self-imposed exile, including the fairy-tale opera The Love for Three Oranges, the Third Piano Concerto, and the Lieutenant Kijé Suite. But the pull of Mother Russia remained strong and in 1936, discounting the warnings of friends, Prokofiev returned to a hero’s welcome in Moscow.

Both the sunny Violin Sonata No. 2 in D major and its dark-minded predecessor in F minor reflect Prokofiev’s attempt to stake out a middle ground between his edgy, distinctively modernist style and the music for the masses that Soviet artists were expected to produce under the banner of socialist realism. The brilliance of the violin parts reflects the influence of the great Ukrainian virtuoso David Oistrakh, to whom the Sonata No. 1 in F minor is dedicated. Like other privileged Soviet artists, Prokofiev spent much of World War II at a safe distance from the fields of battle. In June 1943 he was evacuated to the industrial city of Perm in the Ural Mountains. It was during his brief stay there that he composed his incongruously light-hearted Sonata in D major for Flute and Piano, Op. 94, destined to become one of his most popular works. A few months later, at Oistrakh’s behest, he arranged the music for violin and piano (the suffix bis in the opus number indicates that it is a transcription). Oistrakh and pianist Lev Oborin premiered the violin version in Moscow on June 17, 1944, five days before the Red Army launched its last major offensive against Germany in Eastern Europe.

The Sonata’s four movements strike an attractive balance between bravura display and poetic lyricism. The opening Moderato pairs a languorous melody of silken elegance with a simple, hymn-like tune in flowing dotted rhythms, both set off against music of a crisp, martial character. In the spitfire Scherzo, two sharply rhythmicized moto perpetuo panels, with the violin and piano dancing nimbly in fast triple time, frame a rhapsodic, Slavic-flavored midsection. The short, richly melodious Andante cadences on a soft F-major chord, setting the stage for a swaggering Allegro con brio in brilliant D major that showcases the violinist’s virtuosity in a profusion of grace notes, doublestops, and trills. 

In 1946, Oistrakh and Oborin also gave the belated premiere of Prokofiev’s Sonata No. 2 in Moscow. The work was well received and won the composer a coveted Stalin Prize the following year. Shortly thereafter, however, the political winds changed and Prokofiev found himself subjected to withering ideological criticism by the Soviet Union’s cultural thought police. In a formal condemnation issued in 1948, Prokofiev, Shostakovich, and several other prominent composers were charged with trafficking in “formalist distortions and antidemocratic tendencies.” Although Prokofiev desperately tried to rehabilitate himself by issuing a public mea culpa, he and his music remained shrouded for the remaining five years of his life. In a final irony that he would have appreciated, he died on the same day in 1953 as Stalin, his chief patron and persecutor.

—Harry Haskell, © 2017

Sergey Rachmaninoff (1873-1943)

Trio élégiaque No. 2 in D Minor, Op. 9

View Notes

Although Rachmaninoff’s formidable reputation as a pianist has tended to compete with his compositional achievements, he occupies a prominent niche in the pantheon of Russian composers. As a sixteen-year-old wunderkind, he was singled out for greatness by no less an authority than Tchaikovsky, and shortly after graduating from the Moscow Conservatory in 1892, he composed the Prelude in C-sharp minor for solo piano that soon became his signature piece on recitals. In the tightly knit musical world of late nineteenth-century Russia, it’s not surprising that a neophyte found himself rubbing shoulders with Tchaikovsky, one of the country’s greatest living composers. But the affinity between them ran much deeper than casual professional acquaintance: despite the generation-wide gap in their ages, Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky were artistic soulmates. Both associated with the Moscow Conservatory, they distanced themselves from the assertive nationalism of the St. Petersburg-based composers known as the “Mighty Five” (Rimsky-Korsakov, Borodin, Mussorgsky, Cui, and Balakirev).

Like Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff wrote comparatively few pieces for chamber ensemble, all of these works clustered in the early years of his career. The String Quartet No. 1, which he apparently composed in 1889 and set aside after completing only two movements, is among the first works he produced after he began studying composition in earnest with Sergey Taneyev (counterpoint) and Anton Arensky (harmony). This was followed by an assortment of short chamber pieces, another unfinished string quartet, two piano trios, and, finally, the masterful Cello Sonata in G minor of 1901. Thereafter, for reasons we can only surmise, Rachmaninoff abandoned instrumental chamber music altogether in favor of works for piano, orchestra, and voice.

Rachmaninoff wrote not one but two piano trios to which he affixed the programmatic subtitle Trio élégiaque (Elegiac Trio). The first, in G minor, dates from January 1892, only a few months before his conservatory graduation. By his own account, Rachmaninoff was “completely under the spell of Tchaikovsky” at the time, and his first Trio élégiaque bears a marked resemblance to the two-movement Piano Trio in A minor that Tchaikovsky had written in 1881 in memory of the pianist Nikolay Rubinstein. Rachmaninoff compressed his elegy into a single sonata-form structure lasting some 15 minutes. The virtuoso keyboard part, with its lapidary chords and intricate filigree, was clearly molded for his famously large hands.

Prompted by Tchaikovsky’s death in 1893, the Trio élégiaque No. 2 is equally steeped in elegiac introspection. Rachmaninoff looked upon the older composer as both a mentor and an ally: it was largely thanks to Tchaikovsky’s influence that the prestigious Bolshoi Opera premiered his one-act gypsy melodrama Aleko in the spring of 1893. As Rachmaninoff recalled later:

"Tchaikovsky was already renowned then, he was recognized all
over the world and revered by everyone, but fame had not spoiled
him. Of all the people and artists whom I have had occasion to meet,
Tchaikovsky was the most enchanting. His delicacy of spirit was unique.
He was modest like all truly great men and simple as only very few
are. Of all those I have known, only Chekhov was like him."

That September, Rachmaninoff attended a musical soirée at Taneyev’s apartment in Moscow at which he auditioned his new symphonic poem The Crag at the piano for a small group that included a warmly appreciative Tchaikovksy. According to Rachmaninoff, the great composer was unstinting in his praise, saying “with that nice grin of his: 'It's amazing how many things Serezha has managed to write this summer! A symphonic poem, a concerto, a suite, etc., etc.! All I've managed to write is just this one symphony!'” The work to which Tchaikovsky alluded so slightingly was his Symphony No. 6, the Pathétique. Rachmaninoff’s plans to attend the premiere of Tchaikovsky’s valedictory masterpiece in St. Petersburg in October were thwarted when he was summoned to Kiev to conduct the second production of Aleko.

Rachmaninoff dated the score of the D-minor Trio October 25–December 15, 1893, which suggests that he sat down to compose it on the very day Tchaikovsky died of cholera in St. Petersburg. The task left him exhausted, both emotionally and physically. On December 17 of that year, he wrote to a friend:

“I’ve been working hard, regularly, persistently. This work is a
composition on the death of a great artist. It’s now finished, so I
can speak with you. While working on it, all my thoughts, feelings,
powers belonged to it, to this song. . . . I trembled for every phrase,
sometimes crossed out everything and started over again to think,
think. Now that’s over, and I can speak calmly.”

Like the earlier Trio élégiaque, Rachmaninoff’s Op. 9 is closely and deliberately modeled on Tchaikovsky’s Piano Trio in A minor. A slow funeral march in D minor opens the first movement, with the piano churning out a short ostinato theme consisting of two chords followed by a descending four-note chromatic figure. Above this grimly insistent motif, the violin and cello sing a sad, soulful melody that builds steadily in intensity until the Moderato explodes in a tempestuous Allegro vivace featuring a variant of the descending chromatic pattern. The ensuing outpouring of emotion is by turns anguished and tender, delicate and fiery. This kind of robust—and occasionally over-the-top—romanticism would remain Rachmaninoff’s stock in trade for the next half-century. The Trio’s magisterial second movement, like Tchaikovsky’s, is a set of variations. Fittingly, Rachmaninoff took the broad, serene theme in F major from his tone poem The Crag, which Tchaikovsky had admired and proposed to conduct. Here Rachmaninoff shows himself a master of coloristic effects, especially in the highly virtuosic piano part. The work ends with a comparatively brief, energetic Allegro risoluto in D minor, stamped with inexorable doom and culminating in a moving reminiscence of the opening elegiac procession. 

—Harry Haskell, © 2017

Program Subject to Change Without Notice