The first piece on the program is Haydn's Piano Trio in A Major, Hob. XV:18. Like many of Haydn's forty-odd trios, it displays the composer's signature sense of humor: sometimes light, sometimes dark, but always a lot of fun to play and to hear. Lucy Miller Murray, in her recently-published book "Chamber Music: An Extensive Guide for Listeners," says that, "While virtuosic demands themselves are not intrinsically funny, Haydn seems to make them so in this remarkable Trio." As a listener, I agree. As a performer.....it's still a lot of fun! The last movement, especially, is a real romp over the keyboard.
The second piece on the program is Beethoven's Piano Trio in D Major, Op. 70, no. 1, nicknamed "Ghost" because of certain passages in the second movement (listen and guess which ones!). While the second movement carries an undeniably tragic feeling, the first movement is strong, bright, and majestic, and the third movement brings the piece to a brilliant conclusion. Unlike many earlier composers, Beethoven uses all three instruments prominently, and each instrument is important to the musical texture, sometimes as a soloist, and sometimes as accompaniment.
The program will conclude with Shostakovich's Piano Trio no. 2 in e minor, Op. 67. This piece occupies a special place in the DSCH Trio's repertoire, being the first trio that the three of us played together. Written in 1944, this trio is an elegy to the victims of World War II concentration camps. The first movement is remarkable for its opening: the main theme stated alone by the cello, in harmonics (this opening is really hard, by the way!), giving a thin and pinched sound, and setting the mood for the rest of the movement. The second movement, a scherzo (which means "joke") is anything but funny. The third movement is a set of variations on a very slow eight-chord progression, repeated over and over in the piano, over which the violin and cello weave mournful melodic lines.
The third movement runs directly into the fourth, which, to me, is the one of the most frightening movements I've ever played. Here we are confronted with Jewish prisoners being forced to dig their own mass graves, then being forced to dance on the edge of those graves before being killed. We offer this piece in the spirit of "never again."