Piano Trio No.1 in D Major, Op.3
Writing of the chamber music of Friedrich Kiel (1821-1885), Wilhelm Altmann—perhaps the greatest of chamber music critics—notes that it was Kiel’s extreme modesty which kept him and his exceptional works from receiving the consideration they deserved. And what consideration did Altmann feel these works deserved? After mentioning Brahms and others, Altmann writes, “He produced a number of chamber works, which...need fear no comparison.”
Kiel was taught the rudiments of music and received his first piano lessons from his father but was in large part self-taught. Something of a prodigy, he played the piano almost without instruction at the age of six, and by his thirteenth year he had composed much music. Kiel eventually came to the attention of Prince Wittgenstein, a great music lover. Through the Prince's efforts, Kiel was allowed to study violin with the concertmaster of the Prince’s fine orchestra with which he later performed as a soloist. Kiel was also given theory lessons from the renowned flautist Kaspar Kummer. By 1840, the eighteen year old Kiel was court conductor and the music teacher to the prince’s children. Two years later, Spohr heard him and arranged for a scholarship which allowed Kiel to study in Berlin with the renowned theorist and teacher Siefried Dehn. In Berlin, Kiel eventually became sought after as an instructor. In 1866, he received a teaching position at the prestigious Stern Conservatory, where he taught composition and was elevated to a professorship three years later. In 1870 he joined the faculty of the newly founded Hochschule für Musik which was shortly thereafter considered one of the finest music schools in Germany. Among his many students were Noskowski, Paderewski and Stanford. Kiel's hobby was mountaineering and at age 60--two years before his tragic death as the result of a traffic accident--he climbed Europe's second highest peak, Monte Rosa.
Piano Trio No.1 was written in 1849. The opening movement, Allegro, is a direct descendant of Beethoven's own piano trios although certainly more lyrical. The second movement, Intermezzo, is a lively, accented scherzo also in the Beethovenian tradition. The trio section is considerably slower and imbued with lovely Schubertian melody. The finale begins with a substantial introduction whose purpose is to build tension. The main part of the movement, Allegro assai, begins with a lyrical melody in the cello. The second theme full of yearning leads to a satisfying coda. Altmann highly recommended this work to amateurs. We also feel that players will enjoy what is a very well done trio with excellent part writing and no particular technical difficulties.