Piano Trio No.2 in B flat Major, Op.65
If Arthur Foote's his name is not entirely unknown, it is fair to say that his music is. This is a shame, especially as far as chamber musicians are concerned. Foote’s chamber music is first rate, deserving of regular public performance. Arthur Foote (1853-1937) certainly was the equal of nearly any of his European contemporaries, but the fact that he was an American, at a time when American composers were not generally taken seriously, was without doubt an insurmountable obstacle to his achieving the reputation he deserved. Foote was born in Salem, Massachusetts and was the first important American composer trained entirely in America. His main teacher was John Knowles Paine, from whom Foote gained an admiration for and was primarily influenced by the leading Central European Romantic composers of the day, such as Mendelssohn, Schumann, Dvorak and Brahms.
Piano Trio No.2 was composed in 1909. Foote was at the height of his career. A great deal musically had happened since he had written his First Piano Trio in 1884. Romanticism and traditional tonality had moved well beyond Brahms. While clearly still in the Romantic camp, Foote shows that he had moved with the times. His harmonic and melodic language had expanded and developed as did his command of instrumental color . The opening movement, Allegro giocoso, begins in a gripping, bravura fashion. The rhythms used in the development are fresh and unusual. The attractive second theme has a native American flavor to it. The central and second movement, a relaxed Tranquillo, begins expansively with a lyrical and highly romantic melody in the cello. The second theme, brought by the violin compliments this and leads to a wonderful duet between the strings. The finale, Allegro molto, is full of a forward thrusting energy. It begins with a sense of urgency as the melody quickly rises to a dramatic high point. Tension is maintained by the nervous, driven second second theme, full of staccato passage work.
This is a modern masterpiece from the first decade of the 20th century. It belongs in the concert repertoire. Performing American trios ought to bring this superb work back to concert audiences everywhere. Nor should amateurs miss the opportunity to delve into such a finely crafted trio.