Trio in B flat Major, Op.29
For Piano, Clarinet (or Violin) and Cello
Vincent d’Indy (1851-1931) was born of aristocratic stock. His musical talent was recognized by his grandmother who raised him and saw that he received piano lessons from famous teachers. Despite this, he was sent to law school in Paris. Instead, D’Indy, who was intent on becoming a composer, joined a Parisian orchestra as a timpanist to learn music “from the ground up.” Both Massenet and Bizet were impressed by his early compositions and encouraged him to show his work to César Franck. Franck did not share their enthusiasm and was reputed to have told D’Indy, “You have ideas but you cannot do anything.” Apparently those ideas were enough, however, to convince Franck to show D’Indy how to do things, as he took the latter on as a pupil. Though D’Indy was to assimilate and be influenced by many different sources, Franck and his music left the most telling mark on him. D’Indy’s reputation, during his own lifetime was considerable, having founded, in 1900, what was to become the most important music school in France after the Paris Conservatory—The Schola Cantorum.
The Chamber Music Journal had this to say about D’Indy’s Trio for Clarinet, Cello and Piano in B flat Major, Op.29:
It is, without question, an important work, a masterwork, for this ensemble. D’Indy, though his main instrument was the piano, was also able to play the cello and the clarinet and, no doubt, this is part of the reason that the writing is so effective. The trio was composed in 1888. The big, opening movement, Overture, modéré, begins with a gentle, broad theme which serves as a highly effective and atmospheric introduction to the main theme. The unison writing in the clarinet and cello is particularly striking. The main theme is more dramatic and has more forward motion. The second movement, Divertissement: vif et animé, is an attractive, gay and somewhat quirky scherzo, which sports many rhythmic surprises. This is followed by a beautiful Chant élégiaque, lent. Although the music is slow, it is not funereal. It is peaceful and calm but not at all sad and is closer to reverie than an elegy. The substantial finale, Animé, begins with a theme full of élan and explores many moods along the way.
Although d'Indy composed this trio with the clarinet in mind, at the request of his publisher, he also produced an alternate violin part and took especial care so that it sound both natural and effective as a standard piano trio. It is a beautiful work in both versions.