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piano trio no. 2 

opus number
26 
Burghauser catalogue number
56 
composed
4 January - 20 January 1876 
premiere - date and place
29 June 1879, Turnov 
premiere - performer(s)
Ferdinand Lachner, Alois Neruda, Antonin Dvorak 
main key
G minor 
part / movements
1. Allegro moderato
2. Largo
3. Scherzo. Presto
4. Finale. Allegro non tanto 
duration
approx. 29 min. 


composition history and premiere

The Piano Trio in G minor appeared within a mere seventeen days in January 1876. Dvorak deliberately marked the score “Trio No. II”, even though, in reality, this was at least his fourth piece of writing for this particular instrumental ensemble (two trios dating from the beginning of the 1870s were deemed unworthy of performance, and Dvorak destroyed them). Perhaps still in consequence of the death of the composer’s daughter Josefa in August of the previous year, the work is melancholic and nostalgic in tone (the trio was written in close proximity to the String Quartet in E major and the oratorio Stabat mater). The premiere was held – with the composer at the piano – on 29 June 1879 at a concert Dvorak gave in Turnov, and the work was published by Bote & Bock in Berlin the following year. The trio was performed soon afterwards in Hamburg (24 April 1880), London (21 May 1880), Rotterdam (17 June 1880) and Dublin (13 November 1880).


general characteristics

Only eight months separate the Trio in G minor from the previous work written for the same instrumental group, and both pieces also share similar compositional techniques. Despite this, however, their mood is quite different. Unlike the joyous sense of well-being conveyed by the Trio in B flat major, the prevailing expression here is one of nostalgia. In this instance Dvorak treats the thematic material in a way that is unlike him: the piece is distinguished for its economy in this respect, where none of his movements has more than two themes. Moreover, these themes grow up from the same foundation, thus the impression of thematic simplicity is further enhanced. The very first movement demonstrates this approach, whose richly varied thematic material, constructed from a single common base, creates an almost monothematic effect. The absence of clear contrast reinforces this idea, and the music come across as if from a single mould, even within the traditional sonata-form framework. The second movement is constructed from a single theme which undergoes various transformations while still preserving its original, painfully meditative character. Even the scherzo movement in conventional three-part form fails to establish an up-beat mood in the trio. The outer parts carry an ostinato rhythm consisting almost exclusively of crotchet values in three-four time. The fourth movement in sonata form comprises two themes and introduces a somewhat more optimistic mood which, towards the end, transforms itself into an expression of radiant joy as the piece shifts into G major. The Trio in G minor may be regarded as a mature work, however, overshadowed on the concert platform by Dvorak’s two subsequent trios – the masterful Trio in F minor and the popular Dumky.


period press review

The Athenaeum, 29 May 1880:

"The first and last movements are especially open to question from a constructive point of view. But against such imperfections may be placed a succession of charmingly fresh and piquant ideas, more or less suggestive of the nationality of the composer. Some of the themes are so unmistakably Slavonic in character that Dvorak may possibly have culled them from the stores of Volkslieder ready to be utilized with effect in instrumental composition. Whether this be so or not, the entire trio, and especially the two middle movements, pleases on account of its thematic beauty and easy unstudied expression."