Piano Trio No.4 in F Major, Op.191
Rheinberger's Piano Trio No.4, finished in 1898, was his last such work, coming more than 35 years after his First. Though valedictory in mood, perhaps reflecting his own after the death of his wife, nonetheless this trio exhibits considerable vigor, and, like virtually all of Rheinberger's chamber music is finely put together. The trio was an immediate success and took its place in the repertoire until after the First World War, when, like so many other fine works, it was inexplicably laid aside to be forgotten.
Joseph Gabriel Rheinberger (1839-1901) was born in Vaduz, the capital of Liechtenstein. He started piano and organ lessons at age five and his immense talent was immediately discovered, resulting in a scholarship which allowed him to study at the Royal Conservatory in Munich with Franz Lachner, one of Schubertís close friends and an important composer in his own right. Rheinberger, who remained in Munich for the rest of his life, holding the position of Professor of Composition at the Conservatory for nearly 40 years. 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.
The attractive opening theme of the first movement, Moderato, given to the cello, has a somewhat autumnal quality to it. The tonal warmth and congeniality, though not the melodic content, reminds one a bit of Brahms. The long-lined and fine melodies are given exclusively to the strings and some of the loveliest piano trio writing for cello can be found here. The piano part is the glue which holds the music together. The magnificent second movement, Adagio molto, is one of great power, beginning with a brief, slightly sad and march-like introduction. The main theme first stated by the cello is one of affirmation. A high-spirited Tempo di Menuetto comes next. No minuet, but an allegro bordering on presto, yet the music shows no sense of hurry. The main theme to the finale, Allegro moderato, is a joyfull and carries the music forward effortlessly, while creating a vibrant sense of excitement.
Like all of Rheinberger's piano trios, this work has been hard to obtain and often out of print. It belongs in the concert repertoire and on the stands of amateurs who will certainly enjoy it.