Trio in B flat Major, Op.23
For Clarinet (or Violin), Cello & Piano
Adolphe Blanc (1828-1885) was born in the French town of Manosque. His musical talent was recognized early and he entered the Paris Conservatory at age 13 first taking a diploma in violin and then studying composition with the then famous composer Fromental Halevy. Although for a time, he served as a music director of a Parisian theater orchestra, he primarily devoted himself to composing and most of his works were for chamber ensembles. During his lifetime, these works were much appreciated by professionals and amateurs alike and in 1862 he won the prestigious Chartier Chamber Music Prize. Besides the fact that his works are pleasing and deserving of performance, Blanc's historical importance cannot be underestimated. He was one of the very few in France trying to interest the public, then with only ears for opera, in chamber music. He paved the way for the success of the next generation of French composers.
The Op.23 trio in B flat Major dates from 1856. That it was intended as a trio for clarinet, cello and piano rather than as a standard piano trio (of which Blanc had already composed three) can be explained by the fact that those few of the French concert-going public, who did attend chamber music concerts, were much infatuated by the combination of winds and strings. Blanc no doubt noticed the success such works by George Onslow and Louise Farrenc and followed suit.
The trio is in three movements and opens with a big Allegro ma non troppo. The main theme, of considerable breadth, has a sense of destiny. The lighter second theme is a long time in coming and only appears after a development of scale passages. The main theme to the second movement, Scherzo, vivace, characterized by a playful dialogue between the clarinet and piano, is also based on scale passages. The trio section is somewhat heavier. The finale consists of three parts. The first is a lengthy, rather slow, Andante in which the clarinet takes the lead. It is sad and reflective and long enough to be considered a movement by itself though it immediately leads, without pause, to the Moderato which serves as the middle section. It is a light, Mozartian rondo. The coda consists of a short and exciting Presto.
The original 1856 Richault Paris edition has served as the basis of ours. A violin part in lieu of the clarinet was made so that the work could be played by a standard piano trio, no doubt because Richault, with an eye for wider sales, insisted on it. Blanc himself probably wrote it, as this was the standard practice. Here is an appealing work, which is a pleasure to play, and should be of interest to professionals and amateurs alike.