Piano Trio in g minor, Op.3
Ernest Chausson (1855-1899) was born in Paris into a wealthy family. Although he received some musical training as a boy, a career in music was never envisaged by either his father or himself. He studied law and became a barrister but realized he had no interest in the law. After dabbling in writing and painting, he decided to study music and entered the Paris Conservatory in 1879 where he studied first with Jules Massenet and later Cesar Franck. His friend Vincent d’Indy introduced him to the music of Wagner. Scholars generally divide his work into three periods, early, middle and late. His very early works tend to show the influence of Massenet. In those which come later there is also the influence of Franck and Wagner.
The Piano Trio in g minor was begun in 1881 just after he had stopped studying with Massenet and just about the time he entered Franck’s class. It is usually considered an early work, yet, at times, it already shows the influence of Franck. It is in four movements. Introduction and Allegro, Intermezzo, Andante and Finale. The opening movement With its thick textures, dark harmonic progressions and abrupt dynamic changes reveals the influence of César Franck. The piano provides a restless underpinning to the strings as they trade motivic phrases in a dark, intense minor mode. The second movement is a short and jaunty scherzo of rustic character. Here a fast piano part is juxtaposed against a slow supporting theme in the strings. After the lightness of the scherzo the third movement, marked assez lent, has an elegiac character. At first the piano begins but is soon joined by the cello in a plaintive aria, building tension until the violin takes over the melody. In the finale, Franck’s influence and his use of cyclic themes can be heard. The music begins simply in an upbeat mood though the earlier mood of gloominess does return toward the end of the trio.
It is surprising that this fine work has not achieved a permanent place in the concert repertoire. We have reprinted the original edition, however, we have improved the page turns in the cello part which heretofore were impossible for performance purposes.