Exploring Lesser Known Works for String Trio

Exploring Lesser Known Works for String Trio – With Louise away on a much deserved holiday to India, we (Manor House String Quartet) were not able to explore any more pieces for string quartet, but it was the perfect opportunity to hold another informal get together to explore neglected chamber works but this time concentrating on pieces written for string trio. Apart from some well loved works by Mozart, Schubert, Beethoven and Boccherini,¬†the string trio repertoire is a¬†combination not known for it’s abundance – so we wanted to tackle some pieces which were a little bit off the beaten track in the hope of finding some hidden gems.

Exploring Works for String Trio
Adrian demonstrating his profound knowledge of Heinrich Von Herzogenberg’s string trio – or perhaps communing with an imaginary friend….

The first piece we read through was a trio in F (Op. 27 no. 2) by the Austrian composer Heinrich Von Herzogenberg.  This turned out to be a piece on a large scale, displaying an impressive use of instrumentation as well as an often adventurous melodic feel. The first movement had a vaguely military sense to it, culminating in a disproportionately epic climax. This intense burst of music led onto an interesting slow movement which despite it’s innocent theme had dark undertones – clearly Von Herzogenberg¬†was going through an¬†obsession with the interval of the second. The less distinctive third movement led to a finale where innocence seemed to mingle with darkness, with a lilting theme that we all felt could have graced a horror film – before the final unleashing of elemental forces. This was an interesting work indeed and one which we are keen to hear the opinions of other musicians about.

In a lighter vein, we then moved on to playing Four Morceaux (Op. 5) by the prolifically talented French composer Benjamin Godard. These unpretentious, simple pieces had a lightness and charm which belied their skillful construction. The scherzo in particular had some champagne-like writing and put us in mind of the dexterity and grace of a ballerina.

Perhaps the highlight of¬†our day was the third piece we played – a 45 minute trio by a composer by the name of Lindpaintner. There was just so much music here that it really deserves a second play through to fully digest all the goings on in the pieces. A macho first movement with tender second subject had real direction with some highly effective triplet accompaniment – with the apparent influence of Schubert. From the style of the frontispiece on the sheet music, we are guessing hat the work may have been composed in the 1830’s – but can’t be entirely sure. A dramatic minuet and trio is followed by a large andante slow movement whose sustained flowering is interrupted with bursts of activity in diminished changes. The epic finale had a virtuosic first violin part which was satisfying to play.

Next, we played a rather weaker work by a contemporary of Eric Coates called Ignatius de Orellana – which seemed strangely timeless in that it was heavily influenced by all manner of other composers (such as Mozart) despite being written in the 1890’s. We finished with a distinguished work by the slightly better known French Composer Jean Cras and this is definitely one we will play through again at a future get together. We did not get a chance to play all of this trio through but it has some wonderful harmonic invention and seemed very promising – I am sure it will be the first on the stands next time!