Piano Trio No.2 in A Major, Op.112
Remembered today only for his organ compositions which are considered the most important ever written after those of Bach, Rheinberger, during his life time, was a much respected composer, generally ranked after Brahms and Wagner as the most important living German composer. Furthermore, he was also widely regarded as the leading teacher of composition during most of his lifetime. Among his many students were Humperdinck, Wolf-Ferrari, George Chadwick (whose quartets we are publishing) and Wilhelm Furtwangler.
Joseph Gabriel Rheinberger (1839-1901) was born in Vaduz, the capital of Liechtenstein. At the age of 5, young Joseph was given piano and organ lessons from a local teacher. His talent was immediately discovered and was of such a substantial nature that with the help of a scholarship he was sent to the Royal Conservatory in Munich where he studied with Franz Lachner, one of Schubert’s close friends and an important composer in his own right. Rheinberger, who remained in Munich for the rest of his life, was in great demand as an organist and choral master. He eventually became conductor of the important Munich Choral Society and served as voice coach at the Royal Opera where he got to know Wagner. He also taught at the Royal Conservatory where he held the position of Professor of Composition for nearly 40 years.
Rheinberger's Second Piano Trio dates from 1878. Classical in structure and romantic in character, the trio contains many surprising passages which reveal Rheinberger to be a far more open and eclectic composer than most of his German contemporaries. This work shows he was conversant with developments in France and Scandinavia, though the work is highly original in conception. The opening Allegro, with its wonderful part-writing, has for its main theme a leisurely and genial melody. The highly romantic second theme is full of longing sighs. The second movement, Andantino espressivo, begins with a syncopated, Hungarian introductory motif announced by the piano. When the strings enter, the gorgeous main theme, a long, languid, tonally rich melody oozes forth. The lovely second theme, somewhat faster, also expresses longing. A very interesting Minuetto comes next. Classical in structure, it is highly romantic in mood. The minuet is section is a "lovers' duet between the strings while the piano provides the underpinning with a light flowing part. The trio, is darker. The joyous finale, Allegro, is full of élan and brio. As the music progress we here echoes of the melodies from the first movement before an exciting coda.
Here is trio richly deserving to be brought back and heard on the concert stage. Nor should amateurs miss the chance to play this very fine work