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Piano Trio no. 1 op. 18 (Camille Saint-Saëns)




Allegro vivace – Andante – Scherzo – Allegro 


In October 1864, after his demoralising failure in the Prix de Rome competition for the second time, Saint-Saëns finished composing a Trio which he had begun the previous year and which proved to be the 32-year-old musician’s first important chamber work. Following directly on from the trios by Schumann and Mendelssohn, this masterful piece is exemplary in structure, instrumental balance and wit. It is no coincidence that Ravel went back to this score when he began work on his own Trio half a century later. Saint-Saëns dedicated the trio to Alfred Lamarche, a toll-collector in Paris who was to be a witness at his wedding in 1875. The work was premiered on 29 December 1867 by Bosewitz, Telesinsky and Norblin. It was a huge success during Saint-Saëns’ lifetime and he himself performed it often—as did other famous trios such as Pugno-Ysaÿe-Hollmann, then Cortot-Thibaud-Casals. The Allegro Vivace, with its dance-like opening theme presented on the cello, is unfailingly cheerful and full of melodic invention. The Andante employs a folk theme jotted down by Saint-Saëns during a trip to the Auvergne in the summer of 1863. This melancholy rustic melody can clearly be heard, underpinned by a “drone” (sustained on the violin); the expansive lyricism of the two interludes provides contrast. The humorous Scherzo is, according to Yves Gérard, “a clockwork mechanism” with its well-regulated staccatos, repeated notes and rhythmic syncopations. Finally, the closing Allegro opens with a wonderful dialogue between the cello and the violin over a tremulous piano accompaniment; the whole movement consists of numerous episodes rich in melodies.

    Persons - 3
  • CASALS, Pablo (1876-1973)
  • HOLLMANN, Joseph (1852-1927)
  • SAINT-SAËNS, Camille (1835-1921)
  • Theme - 1
  • Musique de chambre – Le trio avec piano en France au XIXe siècle