String Trio in f minor, Op.12
Henri Marteau (1874-1934) was born in the French city of Reims. It was said that as a boy of 5, he was presented with a toy violin by Paganiniís only student, the virtuoso Sivori. He took private lessons from Hubert Leonard, head of the violin department at the Paris Conservatory and soon became one of the leading soloists of his time. Later he taught at the Geneva Conservatory and was appointed as Joseph Joachimís successor at the Hochschule for Musik in Berlin. Besides his solo work, Marteau was a strong advocate of chamber music, frequently taking part in chamber music concerts and a great number of his compositions are for chamber ensembles. He was friends with many of the leading personalities of his time, including Brahms and Max Reger. Marteau was strongly influenced by Reger's music and his attempt to find a "new way" but one which was still tonal.
Marteau's String Trio dates from 1907 and is both dedicated to Reger and influenced by his string trios. (both of which are available from Edition Silvertrust). From the powerful opening chords of the opening Allegro energico, the extraordinary quality and originality of this work is immediately apparent. The trio begins in a highly dramatic vein, almost bursting the boundaries of chamber music. However, the second theme is by turns calmer and playful. The second movement is entitled Improvisation and is a kind of 20th century mix of Bach and Handel, serious and deep. The music conjures an image of one the great men improvising at the klavier. Marteau calls the third movement Intermezzo, but this is no intermezzo in the tradition of Mendelssohn. Instead, we have a lopsided, slinky dance which lumbers along humorously. This is followed by very lovely interlude in which each voices brings forth a verse on a highly romantic song without words. The trio concludes with a Theme and Variations. The theme is bright and cheerful, bring to mind birds chirping away happily. Six compelling variations follow, each quite different in mood and tempo.
This magnificent work, a masterpiece for string trio, is crying out for rediscovery and certainly should be given strong consideration by any professional group looking for an outstanding early modern work. This is not a work for beginners, but certainly experienced amateurs should also not miss the chance to experience. Out of print for decades, we are very pleased to bring it back.