Piano Trio in G Major, Op.3
"A stunningly lovely piano trio in the Brahmsian tradition. Piano trio players everywhere will certainly want to get a chance to play this one."--The Chamber Music Journal
"Mittler was one of the greats as far as his compositional talent is concerned."---So wrote the respected musicologist Irene Suchy. Franz Mittler (1893-1970) was born in Vienna. As a boy he was given violin and piano lessons, the later with the famous pedagogue Theodore Leschitzky. At the Vienna Conservatory, he studied theory with Joseph Labor and composition with Richard Heuberger and Karl Prohaska. Mittler made a name for himself not only as a composer, but also as a poet and humorist. During the 1920ís, he became one of the most sought after lieder accompanists, partnering with such famous singers as Leo Slezak and Charlotte Kraus. He also made a name for himself as a chamber music pianist, joining forces with such groups as the world famous Rosť String Quartet. Of Jewish extraction, Mittler left Austria for New York in 1938 when the Nazis seized power. In the United States, Mittler enjoyed a varied career, performing chamber music on the radio, teaching, writing for Hollywood and television. (He composed a one finger polka for Groucho Marx) Eventually, he returned to Europe in 1964 and spent his final years teaching at the famed Mozarteum in Salzburg.
Mittler composed in most genres and was, in his lifetime, perhaps best known for his songs. His chamber music, which consists of three string quartets and a piano trio, was written during the first half of his life. These works show that Mittler, along with such other luminaries as Karl Weigl, Erich Korngold and Erich Zeisl, had firmly rejected the atonalism Schoenberg and the Second Vienna School. Instead, his work (as well as those of the other composers mentioned) takes Brahms as a starting point and builds on it, extending the limits of tonality and combining them with fresh and original ideas.
The Piano Trio in G dates from 1911. The big opening Allegro molto appassionato is framed on a broad tonal canvas. The main theme is leisurely and genial. But very soon, its romantic nature reveals itself, as the music soars to a dramatic climax. The second movement is a spooky Scherzo. What is unusual is that Mittler uses a military march for this purpose. Powerful, strident chords interrupt the music at crucial times creating a sense of shock. Yet, for all of the grotesquery, the music has an undeniable charm. The languid trio section, with its lovely lyrical theme, makes for a excellent contrast. The following Andante presents a gorgeous lover's duet, sung by the strings. The buoyant finale, Allegro vivace, begins with a restless, syncopated subject which races along as it quickly builds excitement. It is only with the appearance of the song-like second theme, which provides a brief but slower interlude, that the pace lessens.
Published once in 1911 and out of print for well over half a century, we wish to thank Professor Diana Mittler Battipaglia, the composer's daughter, for making the parts off of which we worked available to us. A concert pianist in her own right, Professor Mittler Battipaglia, with her colleagues, can be heard on our sound-bites. Once you hear them, we think you will agree that this is a superb addition to the late romantic repertoire. It will triumph in the concert hall, yet it is well within the range of amateur players.