Piano Trio in a minor
“Fate is quixotic. Glinka is known as the 'Father of Russian Music', yet Alyabiev began composing his 500 works long before Glinka was on the scene and probably was just as deserving of the title Father of Russian Music. He wrote several operas on Russian subjects long before Glinka did, e.g. Prisoner of the Caucasus based on Pushkin."---The Chamber Music Journal
Alexander Alyabiev (1787-1851 also transliterated variously as Aliabiev, Alyabyev, Alabiev, Alaybieff etc.) was born in the Siberian city of Tobolsk which served as the capital of Western Siberia until 1917. At the time of his birth, his father was governor of the province. The family moved to St. Petersburg in 1796 where Alyabiev received piano lessons. He lived a rather romantic life, joining the Tsar’s army to fight against the invading French in 1812. He took part in the Battle of Borodino. It was about this time that his first songs were published. He became a decorated officer and continued to serve with the Army until 1823 after which he lived in St. Petersburg. He was suspected of being a member of the Decembrists, a group which tried to assassinate the Tsar in 1825. Proof was hard to come by so a false charge of murder was lodged against him. After a rigged trial, he was exiled to Siberia until 1832 after which he was allowed to move to the Caucasus for medical reasons. He lived there until 1843 and much of his music shows the influence of this area. He wrote works in virtually every genre and is thought to have penned 3 string quartets, 2 piano trios, a piano quintet, a woodwind quintet and several instrumental sonatas. Today he is remembered for one piece, a song The Nightingale, which became incredibly famous and has remained in the repertoire. His other works, many of which were censored, fell into oblivion and he remained forgotten until Soviet research a century after his death rediscovered him and his music.
The Piano Trio in a minor was published for the first time as part of a centennial commemoration of Alyabiev's death in 1950-51. The exact date of its composition is unknown as the manuscript is undated, however, scholars believe it to be in the early 1820's. It is in three movements, the format basically used by Haydn and Mozart, rather than the 4 movement style which came with Beethoven and Schubert. The opening movement, Allegro ma non troppo, begins with a lyrical melody and is followed by a lighter, more buoyant second subject characterized by its glittering passage work in the piano. The second movement, Adagio, has a reflective, valedictory quality. It is calm although the middle section hints at agitation. In the finale, a Rondo allegretto, the main theme quite clearly is based on Russian folk melody, certainly an important development for Russian music and one which clearly influenced Glinka.
This is the finest Russian piano trio, if not the only one, from the early Romantic era and as such is historically important. But beyond this, it has appealing melodies and is fun to play. It deserves to be heard in concert. We have reprinted the first edition but have made a few improvements for performance.