Piano Trio in d minor, Op.101 No.2
Anton Reicha, (1770-1836, Antonin Rejcha in the Czech form) was born in Prague. Orphaned at an early age, he went to Bavaria to live with his uncle, Joseph Reicha a concert cellist and music director. He studied composition, violin, flute, piano and composition while with his uncle. In 1785, they went to Bonn, where Joseph became music director at the electoral court. There, Anton got to know Beethoven with whom he became friends. He traveled extensively, holding positions in Hamburg, Vienna and Paris, where he eventually settled. By 1810 he was a professor at the Paris Conservatory and became one of the most famous teachers of his time. George Onslow, Louise Farrenc, Franz Liszt, Hector Berlioz, Cesar Franck and Charles Gounod were among his many students. He also gained fame as a theorist. He was an innovator in many areas. Though perhaps not the inventor of the Wind Quintet, he was the first to popularize it. A prolific composer, he wrote in virtually every genre. Chamber music is a very important part of his oeuvre.
Op.101 No.2 is the second of a set of six which were composed in 1824. Clearly well into the mature phase of his career, Reicha was certainly familiar with Haydn and Mozartís efforts at writing piano trios, but more importantly with Beethovenís ground-breaking treatment of the strings as equals with the piano in his piano trios. The Op.101 trios are proof that Reichaís conception of a piano trio went beyond that of Mozart or Haydn. He accepted the notion that there was a need for equality between the instruments. He wrote in the forward to the first edition of the Op.101 trios that it was his goal to achieve a harmonic interaction between the voices. In this respect, they are certainly the equal of Beethoven's trios. The players were instructed not to regard the music as a mere piano score.
The introduction to the opening Allegro non troppo creates an ominous mood. The dramatic main theme has a sense of urgency. But slowly during the development, the theme slowly brightens and the second theme, first given out by the cello is altogether happier. Though marked Menuetto Allegro, the appellation Menuetto is rather misleading. This is no minuet but an exciting scherzo. Against the pounding accompaniment of the piano, the violin sets forth the dramatic first theme. When it is repeated, the mood immediately lightens and heads off in an entirely different direction. The Andantino which follows begins with a lengthy piano introduction. (the sound-bite presents on the last few seconds of it). The lovely and delicate main subject which the piano has developed painstakingly is immediately changed with the entrance of the strings. A very unusual and original figure in the piano opens the exciting finale, Allegro assai. The strings immediately join in. The bright second theme provides a wonderful contrast.
Here is a trio from Beethoven's time that is in its own way on an equal footing with Ludwig's trios. Reicha's ideas are original and fresh and not to be heard elsewhere. This is a first rate work which would be a success in the concert hall and should be welcomed by amateurs as well. It has been out of print for well over a century. We have reprinted the only edition but added rehearsal numbers which it was lacking and correct a few mistakes.