Piano Trio in c minor
Guillaume Lekeu's Piano Trio is one of only two chamber music works that he lived to complete.
Lekeu (1870-94) was born in the village of Heusy in Belgium and began his musical studies at a conservatory nearby. In 1888, his family moved to Paris and he entered the Paris Conservatory where first he studied with César Franck and after Franck's death, with Vincent d'Indy. Tragically, Lekeu died of typhoid fever just after his 24th birthday. The usually critical Debussy regarded Lekeu to be as talented as Franck and d'Indy regarded him a genius. In addition to his Piano Trio, he completed a string quartet and partially finished a piano quartet.
The Piano Trio dates from 1891 but was not published until after his death in 1908. It is a highly emotional work to which Lekeu provided some detailed commentary as to what he was trying to express in the first movement. "In the massive opening movement, Lent--Allegro, the introduction tells of grief, a ray of hope brusquely driven off by a somber reverie. In the Allegro, there is the sorrow of melancholy mixed with the emotions of battle and memories of victory. Then grief and cries of hate then a struggle between the two ideas." The second movement, Très lent, begins with a very calm, lyrical theme. Calmness prevails for some time until at last Lekeu, almost imperceptively, slowly raises the temperature to a powerful dramatic climax. The Très animé which follows cannot really be called a scherzo. It violently bursts forth full of tension and drama. The middle section, though slower and no longer stormy does not release any tension. The finale, Lent, Animé, reminiscent of late Beethoven, which Lekeu often took as a model, begins with a slow section, full of pain and questioning. It is funereal and yet there is a glimmer of hope beneath the surface. The second section, more optimistic is full of the hurly burly of life. As the movement progresses, with very different episodes follow each other, one is clearly reminded of Smetana's biographical From My Life string quartet--and this form a young man of 21!
We have reprinted the first and only edition but have added rehearsal letters and corrected several errors. It suffers from certain problems as do many of the French editions of lesser quality but is a perfectly serviceable performance edition. Here is an emotionally powerful work by a gifted young composer which should not be missed by either professionals or amateurs.