Piano Trio No.1 in D Major, Op.5
Wolf-Ferrari's First Piano Trio dates from 1896 not long after he left the Royal Bavarian Conservatory in Munich. It is a fresh and dynamic amalgam of Italian lyricism and German structural thoroughness.
Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari (1876-1948) was born in Venice, the son of a German father and an Italian mother. Throughout his life, he felt torn between the two cultures, uniting in himself the deep-felt German seriousness of purpose with sunny, Italian bel canto melody. His father was a painter and initially Ermanno wanted to follow in his footsteps. However after studying painting in Rome and Munich, he enrolled in the Royal Bavarian Conservatory and studied composition with Joseph Rheinberger. He spent his the rest of his life between Munich and Venice, never entirely satisfied in either place. This tension was, however, an important source of creativity for him. Wolf-Ferrari enjoyed his greatest success while still rather young, winning international fame for several of his operas between 1900 and the First World War. He served as Choral Director in Milan and later became the director of the Marcello Music Academy in Venice and taught at the Mozarteum in Salzburg. Though mainly known for his operas, he was quite fond of chamber music and wrote a fair amount including two piano trios, a piano quintet, a string trio, a string quartet and a string quintet.
His First Piano Trio comes from his first surge of creativity. It is brimming with original ideas and is full of youthful exuberance. The opening movement, Allegro molto moderato, begins in a rather relaxed fashion with the violin giving out a stately theme. But gradually the music rises to a feverish pitch of dramatic tension before the introduction of the energetic second theme. The second movement, Presto, is an unusual kind of scherzo. The main section is characterized by long-lined lyricism. A dance-like based on rising and falling scale motifs is juxtapositioned between the faster outer parts. A superb Larghetto follows. The main theme is a lovely, sad plaint, powerfully framed by a strong repeated rhythm. A quicker middle section, Andante mosso, provides a charming contrast. In the finale, Allegro vivace assai, one fine theme follows another, there is enough thematic material here for an entire work. The first section opens quietly but the promise of the upbeat theme in the first bars is quickly realized. But almost immediately, a second theme, a Slavic dance folk-tune, is introduced. Then comes an exciting chromatic interlude which in turn is a followed by a fairy-land dance of the elves out of which a powerful and dramatic melody subject makes its entry--and this is only part of what is in this magnificent finale!
Either out of print are quite hard to obtain, we hope this excellent trio will find a place on the stands of professionals and amateurs alike and hopefully gain a place in the concert hall.