Piano Trio No.1 in c minor, Op.7
Édouard Lalo (1823-1892) wrote three very appealing piano trios and a string quartet, yet hardly anyone knows this. In France, he is remembered for his opera Le roi d'Ys and elsewhere, it is for his Symphonie Espagnole for violin and orchestra and perhaps his cello concerto.
Lalo was born in Lille and studied at the local conservatory there before entering the Paris Conservatory, where he studied with the well-known French violinist and conductor, François Habeneck. Before he made a name for himself as a composer, for nearly two decades, Lalo made his living working as a violinist, and in particular, performing chamber music. If one considers this, it is perhaps not so surprising that he was able to write such attractive and finished chamber works.
In describing Lalo's music, it is clear that he has a gift for writing appealing melodies. His tonal world is that of Schumann and Mendelssohn but modified by uncommonly colorful and exotic harmonies, sometime bizarre rhythms and the use of powerful contrasts in dynamics. Structurally, Lalo was influenced by Beethoven, Mendelssohn and Schumann, most probably because his teacher had helped to popularize their music within France.
Piano Trio No.1 was composed around 1850. At this time, no one in France, other than George Onslow, had written piano trios and his were largely unknown. As for well-known recent models, he would only have had those of Schumann and Mendelssohn so it is not surprising that, structurally he followed their lead. His trios have four movements and generally follow classical sonata form. The superb opening Allegro moderato begins with a moody theme which quickly picks up considerable motion as the music powers forward. The lyrical second theme is full of hope. After the drama and excitement of the preceding movement, Lalo relaxes with a lovely, peaceful Romance, andante, classical in form. A rhythmically interesting Scherzo, allegretto follows. The trio section is closely related in rhythm to the scherzo. The finale, Allegro, features the same dramatic writing and lovely melodies one finds in the first movement along with an exciting coda.
In print of and on, this first rate piano trio has rarely been available outside of France. It would do well in the concert hall and amateurs will find it well within their range.