Piano Trio in A Major
Michael Balfe (1808-1870) was born in Dublin, where his musical gifts became apparent at an early age. He studied the violin with his father and eventually was engaged as a violinist in the orchestra of the Theatre Royal in London, subsequently its concertmaster. Simultaneously, he pursued a career as an opera singer which in 1825 took him to Italy where started composing operas. After his return to London in 1835, he became one of the Victorian eras most successful composers of opera. He is said to have penned over 150 operas, many of which enjoyed tremendous popularity and were often performed throughout the capitals of Europe. However, Of these, only The Bohemian Girl, has remained in the repertoire.
Though primarily an opera composer, Balfe, as a violinist, had a fine command of string technique and wrote quite well for strings. He enjoyed playing chamber music besides this piano trio composed a violin and a cello sonata. The Piano Trio in A Major dates from 1867 but was not published nor performed until after his death when it was premiered three famous musicians: the violinist Joseph Joachim, the cellist Alfredo Piatti and the pianist Agnes Zimmermann. Balfe knew how to write catchy tunes; the success of his operas testifies to this. So, it is not surprising that we find the same treatment in his piano trio which is filled with exciting tunes and beautiful melodies along with an operatic approach. The opening movement, Allegro, has all of these ingredients. One fetching melody follows another. Tinges of mid 19th century Italian opera are to be heard as well. It is an extraordinary tour de force. It was said that at the premiere, the audience went mad with applause after hearing the first movement and the second movement could not be played for several minutes. The stately Adagio ma non troppo which follows features a lovely singing melody in the strings which at times becomes a kind of lovers duet. A short and lively scherzo, Allegro con brio, in the ancient style comes next. The finale, a jovial Allegro, is a quick-paced rondo interspersed with several lyrical interludes.
We have reprinted the original edition, however, have added rehearsal numbers and corrected a few mistakes. This trio is a real show piece that will certainly be well-received in the concert hall, but it is too much fun to play to be missed by amateurs.