Piano Trio No.6 in E Major, Op.34
Napolťon-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. Reberís music unquestably influenced the young Saint-SaŽns and Faurť. 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, including Trio No.6, have such a part. While the piano writing often takes into account that such performers as Chopin, Liszt, Moscheles and other great pianists often 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.
The opening movement, Allegro ma non troppo, opens with a quiet but pregnant introduction which blends seamlessly into the the stately main theme which bears march-like characteristics. It surprisingly dies away and leads to a tender episode alternately sung by the strings in air of calm beauty before the march is reintroduced. The second movement, Larghetto ma non troppo, opens with a lovely duet, with an undeniably vocal quality, brought forth by the strings over a quiet piano accompaniment. Slowly tension is built which eventually rises to very effective dramtic climaxes. Next comes a short Scherzo. The chromaticism coupled with the racing 16th note passages create an exciting picture. The finale, Allegro con brio, is a combination of Beethovian thrust with French sensibilities.
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.