Piano Trio No.1 in d minor, Op.47
"Listening to Litolff's music is an extraordinary and surprising experience. There are times when Litolff is the equal of Beethoven, other times when he is the equal of Liszt and especially times when he is equal of Mendelssohn. Hard to credit, perhaps, but true as a hearing of his First Piano Trio reveals."--The Chamber Music Journal
Henry Charles Litolff (1818-1891) was a keyboard virtuoso and composer of Romantic music. Litolff was born in London, the son of a Scottish mother and an Alsatian father. His father was a violinist who had been taken to London as a prisoner after being captured while fighting for Napoleon. Litolff's first music lessons were with his father, but when he was twelve he played for the famous pianist Ignaz Moscheles, who was so impressed that he taught the boy without charge. (Moscheles had also taught Mendelssohn) Litolff's promise was indeed realized, and he enjoyed a very successful concert career throughout Europe, and was widely considered one of the leading pianists of his time. Liszt was so deeply impressed by Litolff's talent that he dedicated his first Piano Concerto to him. The two were good friends. Besides performing, Litolff also taught. Among his many students was the famous Wagner protégé and conductor, Hans von Bülow. He founded the well-known publishing house of Litolff Editions. His most notable works were his four piano concerti "Concerto Symphoniques" and his three piano trios.
Piano Trio No.1 dates from 1847 and is in four movements. The massive opening Allegro begins with a somber introduction before the powerful main theme is advanced. A lengthy, complex development a la Liszt finally leads to the gorgeous second theme. The slow movement is an Andante, which features a simple, choral melody. At first, the piano and the strings alternate with each other in presenting the thematic material, but as dramatic tension is slowly built, all three join forces. The thrusting Beethovian main theme of the Scherzo which follows brooks no delay as it rushes forward with its boundless energy. The finale, Presto, is a contest between two contrasting themes, one ebullient and playful, the other lyrical and romantic.
Litolff's firm published this trio in 1848 without rehearsal letters. Perhaps he did not need them. Subsequent reprints omitted them as well. We, however, have added rehearsal letters to our reprint. Unavailable for at least half a century, we are pleased to reintroduce a trio that is a tour d'force by any standard.