Litaniae-A Tone Poem for Piano Trio, Op.70
Litaniae was composed in 1920. It is Juon's penultimate work for piano trio. The title is, of course, suggestive and some scholars have thought that it was Juon's response to the terrible upheaval caused by the First World War. Its structure follows that of a typical tone poem in that it is technically in one movement there are actually four distinct sections. The first section Allegro moderato, opens with the strings along briefly stating the main theme, a prayer like refrain. When the piano joins in a broad development takes place, but the pleading quality of the theme never disappears. The second section, Scherzando, starts and stops and starts again. When it finally does get going, it is characterized a bouncy rhythm and an upbeat melody. Next comes a Largo, which clearly the poem's center of gravity. Highly chromatic, and quite modern sounding, it nonetheless, retains a certain religious quality thanks to the chordal playing of the strings. The final section, Allegro moderato, begins quite softly. The main subject of the first movement returns and is presented in a highly dramatic fashion.
Paul Juon (1872-1940) was the son of Swiss parents who emigrated to Moscow where he was born. Educated at the Moscow German High School, he entered the Moscow Conservatory where he studied violin with Jan Hrimaly and composition with Anton Arensky and Sergei Taneyev. After graduating, he went to Berlin for further composition instruction from Woldemar Bargiel (we have published several of Bargiel's works). In 1906, after holding various posts in Russia, Juon was invited by Joseph Joachim, head of the prestigious Berlin Hochschule für Musik, to become a of Professor of Composition, a post which he held until 1934 when he emigrated to Switzerland, where lived for the rest of his life. Juon was widely regarded as a first rate composer and his works were given frequent performance throughout Europe during his lifetime. Chamber music plays a large part of his output which numbers more than 100 works.
This is a work will certainly make a deep impression on any audience. It clearly deserves concert performance but is well within the scope of experienced amateur players.