1882East meets West
Johannes Brahms’ Second Piano Trio is the lesser known of the three trios he wrote. It contains a unique richness and reveals a composer at the peak of his abilities. Usually very critical of himself, the composer seemed quite convinced of this particular work, writing to his publisher: "You have never received such a fine trio from me, and in all likelihood no work of this quality has been published in the last ten years."
Piotr Illitch Tchaikovsky dedicated his piano trio to his teacher and friend Nikolaj Rubinstein, who died in March 1881. The work, with the mention "In memory of a great artist", is a sort of requiem, intimate and deeply moving. This is the only work that Tchaikovsky ever wrote for piano trio. In 1880, when his patron Nadezhda von Meck asked him to compose a trio, the musician first refused, writing to Nadezhda: "simply, I can’t bear the combination of piano and violin or cello. In my opinion, the timbres of these instruments don’t mix, and the piano is only effective in three cases: solo, with orchestra or as accompaniment”. He composed his trio less than one year later. After the completion of this opus, he seemed to remain dubious about his composition, and wrote: "... after composing all my life works for orchestra, I am afraid I wrote a music with a strong symphonic character, not adapted to the three instruments." Be that as it may, Tchaikovsky, to our mind, brings together the best of two worlds: the symphonic character is present, and he masterfully exploits all the combinations of colours of the piano trio.
We open the concert with Igor Stravinsky’s Italian Suite, from the Pulcinella ballet. Born in 1882 in the same country as Tchaïkovsky, he later migrated to the west; to France and then to America. He is perhaps one of the most prominent composers of the twentieth century, and personifies better than anyone the meeting of East and West.