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Czech Chamber Music Society • Trio Wanderer


From Ukrainian the word "dumka" spread into Slavic languages, denoting a melancholic folk ballad. However, dumkas also penetrated the works of the most important composers, including Antonín Dvořák. His Piano Trio No. 4 is one of his most admired chamber works. The world-famous French ensemble Trio Wanderer will perform them in a purely Czech programme.

Subscription series I | Duration of the programme 1 hour 40 minutes | Czech Chamber Music Society

Programme

Bedřich Smetana
Piano Trio in G minor, Op. 15 (30')

Bohuslav Martinů
Piano Trio No. 2 in D minor, H 327 (16')

— Intermission —

Antonín Dvořák
Dumkas for violin, cello, and piano, Op. 90 “Dumky Trio” (31')

Performers

Trio Wanderer
Jean-Marc Phillips-Varjabédian violin
Raphaël Pidoux cello
Vincent Coq piano 

Photo illustrating the event Czech Chamber Music Society • Trio Wanderer

Rudolfinum — Dvořák Hall

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The Czech composer Bohuslav Martinů spent more than half his life beyond the borders of his homeland. It may have been for this very reason that felt such a strong bond to the Czech school of composition. In 1945 in New York, recalling earlier years, he noted in his diary: “What I went to France to find was not Debussy or Impressionism or even musical expression, but rather the real foundations on which Western culture rests […] The Czech elements I brought along to France were not destroyed. Instead, they were supported and augmented by awareness and were put into organic order, which (I think I am not mistaken) is merely following the line begun by Smetana and Dvořák.”

Performers

Trio Wanderer  

Trio Wanderer

Trio Wanderer’s stage-name is entirely appropriate. “Wanderer” pays homage to Schubert and more widely to German Romanticism which is often imbued with the leitmotiv of the wandering traveler. These three French musicians are avid, openminded wandering travelers who explore the musical world, spanning the centuries from Mozart and Haydn to the present. Acclaimed for its extraordinarily sensitive style, almost telepathic mutual understanding and technical mastery, the Trio Wanderer is one of the world’s foremost chamber ensembles. 
Called a “Wandering Star” by the Strad Magazine, the Trio performs on the most prestigious music stages: Musikverein Vienna, Berlin Philharmonie, Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, Concertgebouw in Amsterdam or Wigmore Hall. They have also performed at major festivals including Salzburg, Edinburgh, Montreux or Schleswig Holstein. In triple concertos, the Trio Wanderer has collaborated more than a hundred times with international orchestras under the baton of Yehudi Menuhin, Christopher Hogwood, James Loughran, François-Xavier Roth, among others. 
In addition to records for Sony Classical, Universal, Cyprès, Mirare and Capriccio, the Trio Wanderer began a collaboration with Harmonia Mundi in 1999. Twenty recordings have been issued since then, such the complete trios by Schubert, Brahms and Beethoven, Schumann; Schubert and Hummel’s piano quintet; triple concertos by Beethoven and Martinů and others. These recordings have received many awards and commendations: Choc of the year by Le Monde de la Musique, Editor’s Choice by Gramophone, The Strad Recommends, CD of the month by Fono Forum, CD of the Month by BBC Music Magazine, Diapason d’Or de l’Année, Midem Classical Award. Their most recent recordings are devoted to the trios of Rachmaninov (may 2019), the Quintet op. 57 and Romances op. 127 of Shostakovich (August 2020). The last album is dedicated to Schumann (trios op. 63, 80 & 110, Phantasiestücke op. 88, Quartet with piano op. 47, Quintet with piano op. 44), and is already acclaimed by The Strad, Diapason, Fonoforum, Classica, Le Devoir. 
With a particular fondness for contemporary music, the Trio Wanderer has premiered works by composers including Thierry Escaich, Bruno Mantovani, Frank Michael Beyer, Christian Rivet, Matteo Francescini and Philippe Hersant.
In addition to their numerous radio and television recordings (Radio France, BBC, ARD, Mezzo), the Trio Wanderer was the subject of a film made by the French-German television company ARTE, broadcast in June 2003. In 2017, for the Trio’s 30th anniversary, a book written by Olivier Bellamy, tracing the history of the Trio, was published by Art3 Edition. 
Acclaimed by the professional music world, the Trio Wanderer was awarded for the third time in February 2009 (previously in 1997 and 2000) a Victoire de la Musique as “Best Instrumental Ensemble of the year”. In 2015, Trio Wanderer’ members were bestowed with the title of Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters (Chevalier dans l’ordre des Arts et Lettres). 
Trio Wanderer’s members all graduated from the Paris’ Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique. In 1989/90 they studied in Bloomington’s School of Music and New York’s Juilliard School. During this period, they participated in masterclasses with such masters as Jean-Claude Pennetier, Jean Hubeau, Janos Starker, Menahem Pressler from the Beaux-Arts Trio, and the Amadeus Quartet. In 1988, they won the ARD Competition in Munich and, in 1990, the Fischoff Chamber Music Competition in the USA. Their career quickly rose to major international heights and they have enjoyed many years of music-making at the highest level.

Compositions

Bedřich Smetana
Piano Trio in G minor, Op. 15

We now rate Smetana’s only piano trio as one of the finest chamber works written by Europe’s most important composers at the time. It is a pity that this modern composition remained hidden in manuscript form for so long. Smetana’s immediate stimulus for composing his Piano Trio in G minor was the death of his beloved first-born daughter, whom he called Friederika, Bedřiška, or Fricínka in his German or Czech writings. He mentioned her repeatedly in connection with the trio: “a remembrance of my first child Bedřiška, who carried us away with her extraordinary musical talent, but was soon torn from us by inexorable death at four and a half years of age.” She died of scarlet fever on 6 September 1855. Smetana finished the composition on 22 November 1855, and it was already heard in public for the first time on 3 December of that year in Prague’s Konvikt Hall. Joining Smetana at the piano were the violinist Otto Friedrich Königslöw and the cellist Johann August Julius Goltermann. Into his trio, Smetana poured all of the artistry he had so far attained. This was also appreciated by Franz Liszt during his visit to Prague in September 1856, when the same performers played the trio at Smetana’s home, about which the composer later recalled in a letter: “A year later we played it at my home for Liszt, who embraced me and congratulated my wife because of the work.” A year and a half after the premiere, in May 1857, Smetana went back and revised some passages in the trio. By then, he was working in Gothenburg, Sweden, and at the time he wrote in his diary: “Today I reworked the whole first movement of the trio, and I am satisfied with it as it now stands.” The revised version, which is basically the form in which the work is now known, was performed on 11 February 1858 in Gothenburg, again with the composer at the piano, and with the violin and cello parts played by Josef Čapek and August Meissner. Despite Smetana’s efforts, for a long time he could not find anyone to publish the work. He did not succeed until a quarter century later. Thanks to the selfless efforts of Jan Ludevít Procházka to promote Smetana’s music, the Hamburg publisher Hugo Pohle printed the trio in 1880 with the opus number 15.

Bohuslav Martinů
Piano Trio No. 2 in D minor, H 327

“I don’t know how it came about that I composed the Trio; it was sudden, as if I had written something entirely new by someone else’s hand.” That is how Bohuslav Martinů described the creation of his First Piano Trio in 1930 in Paris. He surprised himself with its “entirely new” musical language. In the work, he was moving experimentally in a world of composition towards which he worked gradually over the course of several years. Subtitled “Five Short Pieces”, the work differs at first glance from the usual three-movement layout that is typical of the piano trio genre. He wrote his next work for violin, cello and piano in 1939, also in Paris. It also has five movements, and in this case Martinů did not even call it a piano trio, instead merely giving it the one-word title Bergerettes. It was not until 1950 that he wrote his next chamber work for violin, cello, and piano. By then, he had been living in the USA for ten years, having moved there from France because of the Nazi occupation, and post-war political developments in Czechoslovakia had prevented him from returning to his homeland. This time, he gave his new work the standard title for the genre and even labelled it in the “old-fashioned” manner with its key as his Piano Trio No. 2 in D minor. Had he ceased with experimentation and composing in a modern idiom? Not at all. Martinů was able to pour his own personality and unrestrained expression into the work even within the bounds of entirely traditional forms, from which many composers were distancing themselves at the time. Martinů wrote the trio in February 1950 in New York on commission for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge on the occasion of the opening of the Hayden Library, named for Charles Hayden, a prominent American banker and philanthropist. To this day at the prestigious Hayden Library, a sketch for the trio is proudly preserved. The library can boast that the work’s world premiere was given on the premises on 19 May 1950 by two MIT professors (Klaus Liepmann, violin, Gregory Tucker, piano) and another professor from Bennington College (George Finckel, cello). After the premiere, tea was served in Hayden’s garden. While the Hayden Library is an outstanding example of the Art Moderne architectural style after the Second World War, the musical work heard at its grand opening is just as supremely modern. It organically combines American energy with Czech musical traditions that had been the composer’s departure point, and towards which he was increasingly returning. Bohuslav Martinů did not live to see the trio issued in print in 1961 by the Parisian publisher Max Eschig.

Antonín Dvořák
Dumkas for violin, cello, and piano, Op. 90 “Dumky Trio”

In 1855, certain critics saw a contradiction between the “rhapsodic” character of Smetana’s Piano Trio and the period’s ideals for chamber music. In the case of Dvořák’s Dumky Trio, Op. 90 (1890–1891), the collision with the formal traditions of chamber music is even more striking. All that the Dumky Trio has in common with the piano trio genre as it was known in the 19th century is its instrumentation. Already when writing the sketches, Dvořák wrote a letter to his friend Alois Göbl, confiding in him his intention of writing something at the limits of the genre: “I’m now at work on something small, even quite tiny, yet I hope you will take pleasure from it. These are little pieces for violin, cello, and piano. It’s going to be jolly and sad. Sometimes it will be like a pensive song, then like merry dancing, but lighter in style, or more popular, so to speak, in short, something that aims both higher and lower.” Perhaps only Dvořák could have taken on such a task, combining “higher and lower” genres with such perfect mastery. In doing so, he went beyond the boundaries of canonical musical form with standardised numbers of movements, the use of sonata form, and other conventions. The composer did not even call his new work a piano trio, instead giving it the title Dumkas for violin, cello, and piano, Op. 90. The six short compositions, referring back to the world of Schumann’s poetic music and the tradition of lyric piano pieces, constitute a single conceptual whole. However, each individual piece can also be played separately. The effect was tried out successfully at the work’s premiere on 11 April 1891 in Prague: “After endless applause, two dumkas were repeated” (from a review by Josef Bohuslav Foerster in the newspaper Národní listy). Ferdinand Lachner and Hanuš Wihan played the violin and cello parts, and Antonín Dvořák played the piano. And it was this trio that professors from Prague’s conservatoire chose in early 1892 for a unique farewell concert tour before Dvořák’s departure for America. Present at one of those concerts in Brno was Dvořák’s friend Leoš Janáček, who was interested in what inspired the composer to write the Dumky Trio. It is only thanks to Janáček that we know that “the composer worked himself into the proper mood at the time of composition for quite a long period—four months—by reading poetry!” That was yet another source of the poetic quality and originality of the six-movement composition, which is a true revelation, scarcely comparable to other music being written at the time. Janáček wrote: “Here, a new source of light has shone through.”

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