Piano Trio No.3 in B flat Major, Op.19
Writing at mid century about the instrumental music of Théodore Gouvy (1819-1898), the famous composer and music critic Hector Berlioz noted, "That a musician of Monsieur Gouvy's stature is still so little known in Paris, while swarms of fleas pester the public with their importunate buzzing, must upset those who still believe in standards of excellence and musical tradition." But Berlioz was whistling in the wind. The Parisian public, at that time, had little interest instrumental music. It was this distain for instrumental music in general which led to Gouvy living the last third of his life almost entirely in Germany where he was much appreciated. Outside of France, he was universally acknowledged for being a master of form and for his deft sense of instrumental timbre. Mendelssohn and Schumann were his models and his music developed along the lines one might have expected of those men had they lived longer. Virtually all of his works show that he was a gifted melodist whose music is a joy to hear. Musicians of the first rank such as Brahms, Reinecke and Joachim, who were familiar with Gouvy's music, held it in high regard.
Gouvy was born into a French speaking family in the Alsatian village of Goffontaine which at the time belonged to Prussia. As a child, he showed no significant talent for music and after a normal preparatory education was sent to Paris in 1836 to study law. While there, he also continued piano lessons and became friendly with Adolphe Adam. This led to further music studies in Paris and Berlin. Gouvy, drawn toward pure instrumental music as opposed to opera, set himself the unenviable task of becoming a French symphonist.
Gouvy’s Piano Trio No.3, the second of a brilliant set, was written immediately after his Second Piano Trio and also dates from the mid 1850’s. The big opening movement, Allegro moderato, begins with an attractive heroic theme first given out by the strings against a pulsing accompaniment in the piano. The masterly development is full of excitement. The second movement, Intermezzo, Allegretto, con grazia, begins in the manner of a simple child's dance, carefree and guileless. However, the sudden appearance of a powerful march-like middle section surprises. The trio's center of gravity is clearly its lengthy, superb Adagio. It begins peacefully, perhaps conjuring up tranquil waters on a breezeless day. A sparkling Vivace, full of vim and vigor caps this excellent work.
Out of print for well over a century, we searched for several years to find the parts to this fine work. Eventually we succeeded, however, as might be expected, music this old was in less than pristine condition. We have spent many hours digitally cleaning, darkening and correcting errors and have been able to create a serviceable performance edition in order to rescue this masterwork from oblivion. But, it is not like a newly published work nor the equal in quality of a modern edition. The price, less than our generally very low prices, reflects this fact.