Trio in A Major, Op.264 for Clarinet, Viola & Piano
Not many composers were writing some of their best works after the age of 70, but Carl Reinecke (1824-1910) is one of them. This wonderful trio, a superb late romantic work, dating from 1903, was completed just before his 80th birthday.
Nowadays, Reinecke has been all but forgotten, an unjust fate for a man who excelled in virtually every musical field with which he was involved. As a performer, Reinecke was, during the mid-19th century, reckoned for three decades as one of the finest concert pianists before the public. As a composer, he produced widely respected and often performed works in every genre running the gamut from opera, to orchestral to chamber music. As a conductor, he helped turn the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra into a group with few if any peers. As its director, he helped the Leipzig Conservatory become what was widely regarded as the finest in the world. As a teacher of composition and of piano, he was considered to have few if any equals. Among his many students were Grieg, Bruch, Janacek, Albeniz, Sinding, Svendsen, Reznicek, Delius, Arthur Sullivan, George Chadwick, Ethel Smyth, Felix Weingartner, Karl Muck and Hugo Riemann. In his time, Reinecke and his music were unquestionably regarded as first rate.
Reinecke was born near Hamburg in the town of Altona, then in the possession of Denmark. Most of his musical training was obtained from his father, who was a widely respected teacher and author. Starting in 1845 at the age 21, he began concertizing across Europe, in the course of which he was appointed court pianist to the King of Denmark. Mendelssohn, Schumann and Liszt all were favorably impressed by him and helped him gain an appointment at the Cologne Conservatory. By 1860, Reinecke’s reputation was such that he obtained a teaching position at the prestigious Leipzig Conservatory, which had been founded by Mendelssohn, and eventually rose to become its director. His reputation and excellence as a teacher can be attested to by the aforementioned list of famous students.
Unlike many of his contemporaries, or even some of those composers who were younger such as Bruch, Reinecke was able to move beyond the music of Mendelssohn and Schumann, the musical idols of the mid 19 Century. The Trio is for an instrumental combination first made famous by Mozart. It begins darkly with a Moderato which then gives way to an Allegro. The writing is assured and in a late-Brahmsian mode. The thematic material is very calm and reflective. The Intermezzo-Moderato which follows has very nearly the same mood as the preceding movement. It is a muted pastorale. Next is a Legende-Andante. It has a beautiful and sad, slow folk song as the main theme. The mood is dark and resigned. The finale, Allegro moderato, stands in stark contrast to the preceding movements with its lively and joyful melodies.
This trio is infused with the developments of late, and even Post-Brahmsian, romanticism. It is without doubt a must for this ensemble combination.