Franz Schubert’s Trio No. 1 in B-flat major for piano, violin, and cello, D. 898; played by Janine Jansen (violin), Torleif Thedéen (cello) and Itamar Golan (piano). Recorded during Janine Jansen’s Internationaal Kamermuziek Festival (International Chamber Music Festival) Utrecht in 2011.
The piece was written by the Austrian composer in 1827. Schubert finished the work in 1828, in the last year of his life (31 January 1797 – 19 November 1828). It was published in 1836 as Opus 99, eight years after the composer’s death. Like the E-flat major trio, it is an unusually large scale work for piano trio, taking more than 45 minutes in total to perform.
The piano trio contains four movements:
- Allegro moderato
- Andante un poco mosso
- Scherzo. Allegro
- Rondo. Allegro vivace
The first movement, an Allegro moderato, is supremely balanced, perfectly orchestrated. The piano takes the first theme with strings providing staccato accompaniment. An upward scale on the piano leads to the second theme, first stated by the cello. Minor incarnations of the theme ensue with increasing longing. The movement is both vigorous and mellifluous, and is the longest of the four in the Trio.
The second movement, marked Andante un poco mosso, starts with a beautiful lullaby-like melody on cello that moves to the violin. After growing and increasing in tempo, passing the theme among the instruments, a more elegant section starts, then becomes more agitated, moving through minor keys, developing ideas. There is a return to the lilting melody from the beginning of the movement and the Andante ends sweetly.
The third movement is a Scherzo Allegro that borrows from the Ländler – a folk-dance in 3/4 time that features hopping, stomping, and, occasionally, yodeling. The Ländler was popular in Austria at the end of the 18th century, and is thought to have contributed to the evolution of the waltz. A mellower, more refined Trio section in the middle shows off violin and cello trading the melody, while piano plays staccato pairs of chords. The more rugged Scherzo returns with a piano call and twirls to the finish. The movement is vintage Schubert – just the sort of music he loved to improvise to accompany dancing at his regular soirees.
The finale is a rondo though it is closer to a developmental sonata form. It is also dance-like and the three instruments follow one another throughout, playing tripping dotted figures, arpeggios, and trills. The music continues to develop and vary, changing keys, making declarative pronouncements and adding to the picturesque flight – one of the most unique and beautiful in all Schubert. After whirlwinds of material, the finale settles, walks merrily along in a conversational way, then interrupts itself loudly and leaps to a cadence.