String Trio in g minor, Op.69
"Wilhelm Berger's Op.69 String Trio is in every respect a masterpiece. Although Berger was a pianist and not a string player, his writing for string instruments in this trio, as in his string quintet, is superb. The first movement, Lebhaft (lively), begins with a lovely Idyll. The main theme is warm and charming. The second movement, Etwas belebt (somewhat lively), is a set of variations on a march-like theme. The fugual variation in the minor is particularly fine. The magnificent Scherzo, Sehr lebhaft (very lively) which follows has the quality of a tarantella. The finale has a long, slow introduction, while the main section combines a sense of charming naiveté with the spirit of a humorous prankster."---Wilhelm Altmann writing in his Handbook for Chamber Music Players.
Wilhelm Berger (1861-1911) was born in Boston but returned to Germany with his family within a year of his birth. He grew up in Bremen where he received his first lessons in voice and piano. A scholarship allowed him to study with the famous composition teacher Friedrich Kiel in Berlin at the Hochschule für Musik. After graduating, he held a number of teaching positions, including that of Professor of Composition at the Royal Academy. He also served as director of the famous Meiningen Court Orchestra. Berger, though his compositions had won many prizes and were often performed, did not quickly achieve the fame he deserved. Highly respected by the cognoscenti, he never self-promoted or advertised himself with the wider musical public as did several others. Fame finally did start to come, but just at the moment of his death, at which time he was starting to be regarded, along with Max Reger, as Germany's most important successor to Brahms. Unfortunately, the First World War and its aftermath, led to a total lack of interest for many decades of nearly all romantic composers, and the reputation of those who were less well-known such as Berger, never really recovered.
No string trio group, be it amateur or professional, should be without this work in their repertoire. Certainly one of the best late romantic era works for string trio there is.