Francisco Braga (1868-1945) was born in Rio de Janeiro and and studied music at the conservatory there before traveling to Paris where he studied with Jules Massenet at the Paris Conservatory. He served as a professor of music at the Instituto Nacional de Música in Rio and was known for his operas and vocal works along with his composition Hinos à bandeira which was adopted as the Brazilian National Anthem. Although he did write some chamber music, he primarily occupied himself with larger works. This piano trio, though undated, is thought to have been composed between 1890 and 1905. No key is given, although the first half of the trio is in B flat Major, while the last part is in the key of D Major.
The Trio is particularly striking in conjuring the jungle-like atmosphere of Brazil. This is especially apparent in the opening movement. It begins with a brief attention-getting Andante introduction, where the theme is first given to the piano while the strings play a soft tremolo accompaniment in their highest register. The main part of the movement, Allegro non troppo, begins in ultra-dramatic fashion with powerful, upward rocketing and downward plunging passages in both the violin and cello parts. Slowly, tension is relaxed and a more lyrical secondary subject is introduced. The second movement, Allegretto spirituoso, is in the form of a scherzo. The main subject is an obvious quote from the first movement and this cyclical technique may well be attributable to his studies at the Paris Conservatory then much in the thrall of Cesar Franck’s use of this method. The third movement, Larghetto, is subtitled “Lundu”. The lundu or lundum is a dance brought to Brazil by slaves from Angola. It enjoyed great popularity the all over Brazil and particularly in the Amazonian regions where descendants of the slaves most often could be found. It is a very sensual couple's dance. The music is rather like a lovers vocal duet with the cello being the first to introduce the lovely and highly romantic theme. Vague hints of the material from the first movement can briefly be heard in the piano’s accompaniment, but are not obvious. The finale, Allegretto, begins with a bang. The music is upbeat, modern and indicative of the hustle and bustle of early 20th century urban life in world-class cities such as Rio. But interspersed are lyrical and more romantic themes.
This is a powerful and highly original work from one of the most important Brazilian composers in the generation before Villa Lobos. It certainly deserves concert performance and any group presenting it is sure to be rewarded by the audience. Though technically demanding, it is well within the range of competent amateurs.