String Trio No.1 in D Major, Op.85 No.1
For Violin, Viola & Cello
This is the first of a set of three mid-romantic period string trios composed by Hermann Berens during the summer of 1871.
Hermann Berens (1826-1880) was born in Hamburg and studied piano and composition in Carl Gottlieb Reissiger who was the music director and chief conductor in Dresden. During this time, Reissiger employed Wagner as his second conductor. Although Berens undoubtedly got to know Wagner well, there is nothing of Wagner in Berens’ music. Rather, Mendelssohn and Schumann served as his models. spent most of his life in Sweden eventually becoming the director of a prominent Stockholm music drama theater and a professor at the Stockholm Conservatory. In addition to his chamber music, he wrote several operas in Swedish and a considerable amount of piano music
Besides the piano, Berens also was proficient on the violin and the trios reveal the hand of an experienced string player. The opening movement to the trio, Allegro vivace, begins in a stately fashion. Berens builds tension slowly but soon there is a definite sense of drama. The addition of a beautiful and lyrical second heightens the appeal. The second movement, Andante Maestoso, is a Schumannesque funeral march with rich deep sonorities. Pizzicato is also used to telling affect. Berens seemed to have an affinity for moderately slow movements. A charming minuet, Allegro non troppo, is comes next. There is a chirpy, up-dated Mozartian feel with a contrasting trio of slightly darker hue. The main subject to the Rondo-finale, Allegro non troppo, is graceful and elegant. Fast downward-plunging and upward-rocketing, which appear later, create a great sense of excitement and are used again in the thrilling conclusion to the work.
This trio, along with the two others which follow are an important addition to the string trio repertoire since there is really nothing else from the mid-romantic period of this excellence. We have reprinted the original edition but have added rehearsal numbers.