Piano Trio No.4 in F Major, Op.22
Writing at mid century about the instrumental music of Thťodore 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.
Gouvyís Fourth Piano Trio was composed not long after Nos.2 and 3 and dates from the mid 1850ís. It opening movement, Allegro con brio, quotes thematic material from Hummelís Piano Trio No.5 in E Major. (Hummel, Mozartís only full-time student and the most important piano virtuoso during the first two decades of the 19th century wrote 7 piano trios, all of which were extremely popular for most of the 19th century.) Apparently Gouvy quoted it because it was one of Hummelís best known trios and he wished to show how he could develop it in a very original and varied style. The second movement, Larghetto, features wonderful singing melodies which could easily have been adopted as operatic arias. The third movement, Minuetto, is far from a typical minuet, but rather a stormy thrusting affair, while the lyrical trio provides a fine contrast. The light-hearted finale, Allegro vivo, is full of fun and catchy tunes which was typical of Gouvyís style.
We looked for a set of parts to this very fine work for many years. Eventually we were able to obtain a copy of the original parts which were brought out by the French publisher Jannot. Like most French publishers of the time, Jannot used poor quality paper and ink. The ink on these 160 year old parts has speckled all over each page and no amount of digital cleaning can change this fact. Yet, despite these speckles, it is not at all hard to read the music. If you do not mind speckled pages, you will have no trouble. We have provided an example so you can see for yourself. These parts have already been used by two professional piano trios in concert with no difficulty. While we would have preferred to have had a cleaner set of parts at our disposal, this just was not possible. (If we had created a new edition, we would have to have offered it at four times the price) The alternative was to let this attractive music continue to languish in oblivion. Hence we have decided to make it available. The price, nearly half our generally very low prices, reflects this fact.