Piano Trio No.1 in F Major, Op.6
The initial opportunities which led to the success and recognition Woldemar Bargiel (1828-97) enjoyed during his lifetime were in large part due to the fact that he was Clara Schumann’s half brother. Bargiel’s father Adoph was a well-known piano and voice teacher while his mother Mariane had been unhappily married to Clara’s father, Friedrich Wieck. Clara was nine years older than Woldemar. Throughout their lives, they enjoyed a warm relationship. Bargiel received his first lessons at home and later with the well-known Berlin teacher of music theory, Siegfried Dehn. Thanks to Clara, Bargiel was introduced to both Robert Schumann and Felix Mendelssohn. Upon the suggestion of the former and the recommendation of the latter, Bargiel at age 16 went to study at the famous Leipzig Conservatory with two of the leading men of music: Ignaz Moscheles (piano) and Niels Gade (composition). After leaving Leipzig in 1850, he returned to Berlin where he tried to make ends meet by giving private lessons. Eventually, Clara and Robert were able to arrange for the publication of some of his early works, including his First Piano Trio. Subsequently, Bargiel held positions at the conservatories in Cologne and Rotterdam before accepting a position at the prestigious Hochschule fur Musik in Berlin where he taught for the rest of his life. Among his many students were Paul Juon and Leopold Godowsky. Besides teaching and composing, Bargiel served with Brahms as co-editor of the complete editions of Schumann’s and Chopin’s works. While Bargiel did not write a lot of music, most of what he composed was well thought out and shows solid musical craftsmanship. His chamber music—he wrote four string quartets, a string octet and three piano trios—represents an important part of his output.
Bargiel’s Piano Trio No.1 in F Major, Op.6 dates from 1851 and was begun just after he left Leipzig. Schumann gave him help in the way of suggestions and criticism. In gratitude, Bargiel dedicated the Trio to him. It met with immediate success upon its publication in 1855 and became one of Bargiel’s best known works. It begins with a lovely, pensive Adagio introduction. No sooner is this concluded than we hear the triumphial march-like theme from the main movement, Allegro energico (our soundbite begins with the march). The second movement, Andante sostenuto, begins with two extraordinarily lovely themes. In the middle section, there are two dramatic episodes, which briefly disturb an almost other-worldly calm. The third movement is a Scherzo-presto. The rhythm of the syncopated main theme bears some resemblance to the scherzo from Beethoven’s Symphony No.9. It is Halloween music, a dance of ghosts or goblins. The finale, Allegro con fuoco, is based on a massive fugue. The opening theme is stated first by the piano with the cello entering next and then the violin. What makes this fugue particularly interesting is the fact that it is a breathtaking moto perpetuo. In 1861, the prestigious music journal Neue Zeitschrift für Musik wrote, “This trio (Op.6) belongs to the most important works of the post-Schumann era in the field of chamber music.” This outstanding work deserves to be heard and played in concert and will also be enjoyed by amateurs.