Piano Trio No.1 in g minor Élégiaque
Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943) is well-known both for having been a famous piano virtuoso and for having composed several important piano concertos as well as other works for orchestra. Few, however, know that he wrote chamber music.
Piano Trio No.1 (it has no opus number) was composed during the first part of 1892 and performed shortly thereafter. Though it circulated in manuscript for several years, it had to wait until 1947 for publication. It shares the same subtitle, Élégiaque, as his Second Piano Trio, Op.9 which was composed the next year. What is interesting about both of these trios is that although they are early works, they show a mastery of technique and an uncanny similarity to his later compositions.
The trio is unusual in that it is in one rather than the usual three or four movements. This movement, however, consists of twelve sections. In the opening section, Lento lugubre, the piano presents the gentle, elegiac main theme against a soft accompaniment in the strings. Each of the string instruments is then given a chance to develop the theme. The mood from section to section is always changing from più vivo to con anima to appassionato to tempo rubato and so forth. But in the end, the theme becomes a funeral march, reminiscent of Tchaikovsky's piano trio which also ended with a funeral march.
Our edition is a modified reprint of the first and only edition which was made by the Soviet State Publishers during Stalin's reign and which, for the most part, has been unavailable outside of that country. Of these editions, Soviet musicians liked to say, the paper disintegrates within months and the ink never dries. Although we have spent considerable time cleaning up smudges and other detritus one encounters in Soviet editions, there is only so much that can be done. Our edition is a performance edition, printed on high quality paper and quite readable, with errors corrected. It is simply not as crisp or spotless as the typical Western edition because of the original off of which we had to work.
This is a little-known, attractive trio which should be enjoyed by professionals and amateurs alike.