Piano Trio No.2, Op.1 No.2--"Trio de Salon"
"Franck composed four piano trios when he was young. At the time (1843) they created tremendous excitement and today (1937) are still quite interesting. While his First Trio became the best known, I especially recommend his Second Trio for aficionados, not only for its construction and its extraordinary second movement but also because it is grateful to play."
---This was the opinion of the famous chamber music critic Wilhelm Altmann, writing his Handbook for Piano Trio Players.
CÚsar Franck, even today, is fairly well-known, not only as the father of modern French music, but also for his Symphony in d minor. His chamber music, unfortunately, has in modern times been unjustly shoved to the side and forgotten. Franck (1822-1890) was, during his lifetime also known as one of the best organists in the world. He was also a piano virtuoso and in later life as a professor at the Paris Conservatory became an important teacher. Among his many students were Vincent d'Indy and Ernest Chausson.
As Altmann notes, the trios were highly thought of when they came out. Mendelssohn praised them and Franz Liszt took it upon himself to introduce them on the concert stages of Germany. Franck gave the Second Trio the subtitle "Trio de Salon" not as many critics have mistakenly thought, because he considered it a drawing room piece, but because he deemed it a more intimate work. In four movements, the first movement, Allegro moderato, sets the mood for the entire trio. It is gentle and elegant, beginning with a simple, naive but beautiful melody. It glides along effortlessly. The intimate nature of the music and the ensemble makes it clear why Franck subtitled the work Trio de Salon. The second movement Andantino is immediately given an exotic, almost oriental, flavor by the brief introduction. The construction of this movement is particularly striking. It is virtually two sonatas sewn together. In the first part the cello is given the lead. The melody, a sad folk melody, is a haunting lament. In the second half of the movement, the violin takes over. The third movement, Minuetto, is clearly related to the second movement, not only in its form of construction but also in the relationship of its slightly more lively theme. It is only in the finale, that a real burst of energy explodes in the rhythmically interesting figure which serves as part of the triumphant first theme.
This trio has either been out of print for more than a century. We have reprinted the original edition but have added rehearsal numbers. The music speaks for itself and needs no further accolade from us.