Piano Trio No.4 in D Major 'Serenade', Op.25
Henri Reber's Piano Trio No.4 in D Major, subtitled 'Serenade', dates from 1864. The main theme of the opening Allegro is quite broad and unfolds in leisurely fashion. Lyrical and romantic, it has a certain dignified quality to it. The trio was given the nickname “Serenade” most likely because of its second movement, Allegretto, un poco andantino, which begins with the muted strings playing a lovely song like melody over the soft arpeggio accompaniment in the piano. The music has great beauty and delicacy. Next comes a thumping and strongly accented Scherzo which leads to lengthy whirling passages in the piano. The finale, Andante, allegro, begins with a solemn, almost threatening, lengthy Beethovian introduction which leads rather unexpectedly to a light-hearted rather gay dance like main section.
Napoléon-Henri Reber (1807-1880), was no doubt given his first name as the year of his birth coincided with the time when Bonaparte was at the height of his power and popularity. But the composer, who was born in the Alsatian town of Mulhouse, for most of his life went by Henri Reber. He studied composition with Anton Reicha at the Paris Conservatory and thereafter pursued a career with considerable success as a composer, eventually becoming a Professor of Composition at the Paris Conservatory and a member of Academie Francaise. Among his many students number Benjamin Godard, Jules Massenet, Pablo de Sarasate, and Wladislav Zelinski. He composed in virtually all genres, including ballet, opera, symphonies and chamber music. His chamber works include a string quartet, a string quintet and seven piano trios. His Sixth Piano Trio dates from 1876 and represents his mature style and provides a sound picture of the style appreciated during the Second Empire and Third Republic by the French public and musicians. The music has a timeless dimension, clearly of the mid-romantic era, but with its roots clearly traceable to the late 18th century. Hence one can hear echoes of Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and Mendelssohn, while at the same the influence of such contemporaries as Berlioz with its typical use of French coloration. Reber’s music unquestably influenced the young Saint-Saëns and Fauré. His piano trios achieved such popularity that by the time of the Fourth Trio, his publishers asked him to provide a viola part which could serve as an alternative to the cello and all of the later trios have such a part. While the piano writing often takes into account that such performers as Chopin, Liszt, Moscheles and other great pianists freuqently were the performers of his trios, the part-writing is entirely balanced and the piano is never allowed to dominate but remains an equal partner.
Out of print for well over a century, this fine mid-romantic era French piano trio certainly deserves to be heard in concert but will also give pleasure to amateurs players. We have reprinted the original and only edition correcting errors and adding rehearsal letters.