Classical Music | Music for Trio

Leonard Bernstein

Piano Trio no. 2  Play

Neave Trio Trio

Recorded on 02/15/2017, uploaded on 10/06/2017

Musician's or Publisher's Notes

I.    Adagio non troppo – Allegro vivace – Largamente
II.   Tempo di Marcia
III.  Largo – Allegro vivo e molto ritmico

Although Bernstein began his Harvard years with virtuosic pianism as his main accomplishment and career aim, his interest in composition gradually blossomed during his time at the university, and the Piano Trio survives as a unique document of his creative work at this formative stage. On the manuscript and performing parts he described it as his ‘op. 2’. It was composed in 1937 while he was a Harvard student for a performance by the Madison Trio, featuring his good friend Mildred Spiegel at the keyboard, with the string players Dorothy Rosenberg (violin) and Sarah Kruskall (cello); it seems also to have been performed in 1939 by Spiegel with two different string players. Thereafter, the work sank without trace until it was published some four decades later; its first recording, by the New Munich Piano Trio, was made three years after Bernstein’s death. During Bernstein’s time at Harvard, his compositional ambitions were informally fostered by Aaron Copland, who constantly urged his protégé to rid his music of its many undigested influences. Alongside dutiful passages in the Piano Trio of quasi-fugal counterpoint, for example, are strong echoes of the modern music to which the young Bernstein was attracted at the time – including works by Berg, Bartók, Hindemith, Poulenc, and Stravinsky – and the eclectic effect of the piece as a whole is very different from the consistency of his mature music. Only in the second movement is there a vivid glimpse ahead to the jazzy Bernstein of the later years: this appealing set of variations on a cheeky, march-like theme is replete with blue notes and shot through with an unpredictable sense of humor.        Notes by Mervyn Cooke

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