Josef Bohuslav Foerster
Piano Trio No.1 in f minor, Op.8
Josef Bohuslav Foerster (1859-1951) was born in Prague and first studied with his father who was a leading organist and Professor at the Prague Conservatory. Foerster studied organ at the Prague Organ School and composition at the Conservatory. Upon graduation he took over from Dvorak as chief organist in one of Prague's leading churches. He was on friendly terms with all of the leading Czech composers and was initially influenced by Smetana and Dvorak. He worked as a music critic in Hamburg after marrying the leading Czech soprano who was engaged at the Hamburg opera. In Hamburg, he met and became close friends with Mahler as well as Tchaikovsky. When Mahler left for Vienna, Foerster followed him and became a professor at the New Vienna Conservatory. After the formation of the Czech Republic in 1918, he returned to Prague where he taught for many years at the Conservatory. His music while initially influenced by Smetana and Dvorak, later changed as did musical styles, although he always remained a tonal composer. After his first period, his works no longer could be considered nationalistic as he stopped employing the idioms of Czech folk music and adopted a more perstonal and mystical style. He composed in most genres and left a considerable amount of chamber music including five string quartets and three piano trios.
Foerster's First Piano Trio dates from 1883 although it was not published until 1890. Dvorak, who was at its premiere, praised it lavishly. Wilhelm Altmann, writing in his Handbook for Piano Trio Players describes the trio as follows:
“Foerster’s First Piano Trio was dedicated to Edvard Grieg and it is for this reason that one can at times hear Nordic harmonies. This is a noteworthy work which deserves a place of honor in the concert hall. The opening movement, Allegro, has for its main theme a somewhat Hungarian melody, but which, nonetheless, is quite original. The development section is quite cleverly done. The second movement, Allegro con brio, which serves as a kind of scherzo is dominated by its sharp rhythms while the lovely trio section makes for a fine contrast with its appealing melody. A deeply felt and warm Adagio molto follows. The finale, Allegro con brio, has considerable swing to it, especially the lyrical theme. This last movement does make technical demands on the players, but it should be noted that these are by no means beyond the abilities of competent amateur players."
This is a first rate piano trio, which as Altmann writes belongs in the concert hall but is not beyond competent amateur players. Unavailable for many years now, we have reprinted the first and only edition, correcting mistakes and adding rehearsal numbers.