Josef Bohuslav Foerster
Piano Trio No.2 in B flat Major, Op.38
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 Second Piano Trio dates from 1894 shortly after his wife's premature death. The trio along with his second symphony are dedicated to her memory. But the work does not have outbursts of drama, pain or despair but rather a more measured and poeticized grief. Its structure does not conform to the standard three movement pattern of fast--slow--fast, but instead has two fast movements and then is concluded by a slower, elegiac one. Given the "message" of the trio, this layout is entirely logical. In the first 2 movements, Allegro energico and Allegro molto, the mood is bright and optimistic, telling of his early happiness. The second movement in particular is a brilliant and lively scherzo which sets the stage for the onset of the grief which is to follow. The introductory solo passage in the cello is reminiscent of Smetana's approach in his First String Quartet. The mood is gloomy but tinged with a sophisticated sense of resignation.
This is a powerful piano trio which undoubted belongs in the concert hall where it would be sure to triumph, but it is well within the ability of amateur players who should not miss the chance to play. Unavailable for many years now, we are pleased to make it available once again.