When one reads “Piano Trio” on a concert season’s brochure, one is forgiven for taking it for granted that the performers will be playing the violin, the cello and the piano – in this order, i.e. as they appear in the layout of the current published scores of, say, Beethoven’s or Brahms’ or Shostakovich’s Trios.
In the eighteenth century, however, the matters were not as straightforward as they might seem today. Firstly, we might consider the keyboard instrument: which one? In the second half of the eighteenth century, the pianoforte gained increasing importance over and against the harpsichord, but, for instance, the clavichord continued to thrive for a rather long time. These three instruments have radically different ways to produce sound: through hammers (fortepiano), through plucked strings (harpsichord), through tangents which bring the performer’s fingers in as close as possible a contact with the resounding strings (clavichord). Not only in timbre, but also as concerns the volume they can produce, these three instruments are very different: today’s pianos are obviously more powerful than either of their fellow keyboard instruments, but in the eighteenth century a large harpsichord might produce more sound than a small piano. The clavichord, alas, was always last in line, and this had important consequences when the delicate balance of instruments typical for chamber music was called for. Then there were the other two parts – and I am purposefully speaking of “parts” rather than of instruments. Johann Sebastian Bach, to name but one, wrote some “Trios”, or rather Trio Sonatas, which can be played either by a single musician performing on an organ (two manuals and a pedalboard) or by more performers, one for each part and perhaps two for the bass (for instance cello and harpsichord). In Bach’s works, to remain by the chosen example, the three parts are usually almost equivalent as concerns their importance and difficulty, though the bass has a different behaviour than the two higher parts. But many Trio Sonatas of the late Baroque and early Classical era may display very different hierarchies as concerns the parts’ importance and their roles.
Finally, one aspect which the present-day listener might find puzzling is that frequently there is no unambiguous indication of the performing forces, and instruments with a very different timbre, such as the violin and the flute, might be considered as interchangeable. The label “Trio” thus applies to works with very different conceptions. This is also due to what we might define as the genealogy of the “modern” (i.e. late Classical/Romantic) Piano Trio. On the one hand, its roots are influenced by the keyboard Sonata “with accompaniment” of two added instruments, one high and one low. Occasionally, these two very expendable other instruments could simply double the keyboard part, and their role was merely to fill the timbral space by adding their own specific colour. But, on the plane of “the notes”, little if anything is lost if the keyboard player performs solo.
The other ancestor to the Piano Trio is the solo Sonata for a high-pitched instrument, accompanied by thorough bass played by a keyboard instrument and a cello. In this case, we have another clear protagonist, i.e. the high melodic instrument, and two background figures, clearly subordinated to it. And, of course, there is the model we discussed a few lines above, the “Bachian” model, consisting of three equally important contrapuntal parts; this is probably the most demanding of these three styles, since it requires perfect coordination and great command of the polyphonic texture. Of these three models, this last one is the least likely to be played by amateurs; solo sonatas are frequently very demanding as concerns the solo part, while the others could often be played by non-professionals; and keyboard trios “with accompaniment” are normally the most accessible of the three genres. The itinerary toward the “modern” conception of the Piano Trio thus was complex and not linear at all. It involved twists and turns depending on the composer’s taste, on the intended destination (personal performance? Performance by, for instance, aristocratic amateurs? Dissemination through printing?), and on the occasion of composition. Franz Joseph Haydn is probably the most august protagonist of chamber music in the eighteenth century. He is rightfully considered as the “father” of the string quartet, but his output in the field of piano (or keyboard) trios comes immediately after. Still, the numerous masterpieces he wrote in this genre are largely missing from the concert halls, and also comparatively rare in the discographic catalogues.
The Trios recorded in this Da Vinci Classics album, which therefore represents a welcome addition in the recording panorama, all involve the presence of one or more flutes. And this does not happen by chance, since all of them were conceived with the English market in mind. By the end of the eighteenth century, when Haydn was writing these Trios, the transverse flute was in fact a prime actor in the field of English instrumental music. Being comparatively easier to play than the violin, it attracted the attention of many amateurs from the nobility and the high bourgeoisie, taking the British Islands by storm.
The Trios indicated as Nos. 15-17 in the section of Hoboken’s catalogue dedicated to Haydn’s Trios (Hob. XV) were written by Haydn in 1790, on the request of a publisher based in London, by the name of John Bland. While we know this, about their composition, many other aspects remain obscure, largely because – as happened with numerous other works by Haydn – there is no surviving autograph manuscript to support our speculations. Haydn had met Bland in 1789, when the Englishman had visited him; however, with some shrewdness and with some entrepreneurship, Haydn sold his works to two publishers at once: to Bland in England, but also to Artaria in Vienna. Bland specified, in the scores published by his company, that he was to be credited with commissioning the works to Haydn, and also that he was the sole proprietor and owner of what we would now call their copyright. This is rather ironic, since by the time Bland had them printed, the composer himself had sold them to Artaria in direct competition with the other publisher…
The intended destination of these works is typically the milieu of the gifted amateurs, who devoted considerable time to music but aimed at musical entertainment rather than at demanding intellectual or spiritual content. In spite of this, pathos, emotions, affections and drama are not missing from these Trios. Haydn was ideally suited to please this audience – and it is not by chance that his fame preceded him and travelled throughout Europe – thanks to the irony, lightness, humour and bonhomie which suffuses so much of his music. Yet, he would not be the genius he was had he merely written “pleasant” music. Though he was frequently disinclined to shake the listener with anguished and tortured passages, he never aimed merely at eliciting a disenchanted smile. These Trios, written for the transverse flute, cello and keyboard (probably intending primarily the fortepiano) constitute however just the tip of the iceberg in Haydn’s output of keyboard trios: his catalogue numbers at least 45 such works (the “at least” is due to the doubtful authenticity of some youthful works), of which only these three list the flute as the preferred high-pitched instrument. In spite of the numerical minority, these Trios have a great importance in the history of the keyboard Trio with flute, since here Haydn treats the flute as a wholly independent and autonomous instrument, while pitching it in dialogue with the other two partners. This is true particularly of the keyboard, while the cello remains mainly anchored to the keyboard’s left-hand part. The process toward the establishment of a true equality in rank of the three Trio partners was still in the making at Haydn’s time, and indeed his works were no minor contribution toward that end. A few months after the composition of these Trios, Haydn himself ventured outside the Continent and across the Channel, where he was received triumphally and established a long-lasting and well-deserved fame. His first journey to England took place in 1791-2, after the disbandment of the Esterházy orchestra, and the second in 1794-5. It was during this second stay that Haydn wrote the “London” Trios with two flutes, which represent an entirely different perspective about the interaction of three instruments. In this case, to have two equal, and equally important instruments against a keyboard, required a completely different handling of the musical material and of the overall texture. The “London” Trios are a somewhat inhomogeneous collection, including two works in three movements (one of the standard structures of works in the Classical Sonata form) and two isolated movements. Whether these were intended to make the Trios as we now know them, or whether Haydn had other, perhaps more usual, combinations of movements in mind is unknown. Some of these movements, forming two self-standing Trios, were published in 1799 by Monzani (London), in a print which also provides us with the circumstances of composition. Allegedly, the works were conceived for two English noblemen, i.e. Baronet Willoughby Aston, and for the Earl of Abington, Willoughby Bertie. Abingdon was a respectable musician, composing his own music; Haydn wrote an accompaniment for a tune of his, and employed his The Lady’s Looking-Glass as the theme for the variations found in Hob IV:2. Here, as in the other Trios recorded here, Haydn’s inventiveness is at its best. He delights us with plenty of elegance, surprises, joy and lightness, while not disregarding moments of intense expressivity. The minor-mode sections, in particular, are often veined with a profundity one would not expect of works conceived for the delight of aristocrats. Haydn’s superb mastery of instrumental writing transpires also from his capability to employ an almost symphonic style in spite of the relative thinness of the performing forces, while never losing the proverbial transparency of his style. Together, these works offer us plenty of stimuli, for the intellect as well as for the heart; and we can easily imagine what, in Haydn’s music, so caught the imagination of his early English admirers.
Chiara Bertoglio © 2022
Elisabetta Gesuato graduated in piano with top marks and honours at the Conservatory “Cesare Pollini” in Padova. She holds a degree in Italian literature with top mark and honour at the University of Padova and a Diploma of specialization degree in literature at the University of Venice. She attended piano specialization courses at the Akademie Mozarteum in Salzburg with M° Alfons Kontarsky, and chamber music courses at the Accademia Pianistica “Incontri con il Maestro” in Imola with M° Dario De Rosa, Maureen Jones and Piernarciso Masi. She gave many concerts for musical and cultural Associations, Universities, Academies and Conservatories as a soloist and as a member of piano duo, chamber ensembles, choral concerts and with orchestras in the most important Italian cities, in France, Swiss, Germany, Moldova, Russia. As a member of a piano duo she recorded a CD for Da Vinci Classics by the title of “Rêver d'un rêve majestueux” focusing on Russian composers Čajkovskij, Rachmaninov and Bortkievic. That CD was awarded the silver medal at the Global Music Award in California (USA). She is the artistic director of the Music Association AGIMUS, of the International Concert Season in Padova and of the International Musical Competition “Premio City di Padova”. She also has an intensive teaching activity: she taught piano at the Conservatory Pollini and at the Liceo Musicale of Padua, as well as literature, history and Latin in public high schools in Padova.
graduated in cello in 1990, and in percussions in 1992 with top marks. He was a member of the Baroque Quartet “Nuova Arcadia”, and of string quartets Aura” and “Palladio”. With Chamber orchestra “L’Offerta Musicale” he participated in numerous concert tours for international festivals in Italy, Belgium, Croatia, France, Germany, Malta, Spain and Tunisia, recording for Nuova Era, Tactus and Bongiovanni. With Baroque ensemble “Nova Academia” of Trieste he toured and realized radio recordings in Austria, Belgium, Romania and Slovenia. He cooperated with Baroque music ensembles (“La Concertante”, “Accademia Vivaldiana”), chamber orchestras (Virtuosi dell’Ensemble di Venezia, G.S.V. Malipiero, Orchestra di Bergamo), symphonic and operatic orchestras (“Città di Verona”, Filarmonia Veneta, “Ars Nova”). He is the principal cellist in the orchestra “Dolomiti Sinfonia” of Belluno. He is a titular member of the “Garilli Sound Project” of Verona, which tours all over Italy. Since 2020 he is a member of the “Giorgione” Ensemble, performing works by Mozart, Beethoven, Weber. Since 2021 he plays in the “Libertango” Trio, performing works by A. Piazzolla. With flutist Enzo Caroli he recorded the complete works for flute and continuo by J. S. Bach, by B. Marcello and by Vivaldi.
After graduating in Flute with M° Pasquale Rispoli in Venice, Enzo Caroli continued his studies at the Accademia Chigiana with M° Severino Gazzelloni obtaining a “Diploma of Honour”, in France with M° Roger Bourdin and in Rome with M° Conrad Klemm. He won several competitions as a flutist: Teatro La Fenice in Venice and Orchestra Sinfonica della Rai in Rome, “Cilea” in Palmi and “Briccialdi” in Terni; he also won chamber music contests in duo with pianist R. Maioli, i.e. the Cilea competition and the Trapani International Prize. He performed concerts and recitals in Brazil, Japan, Spain, US, Malta and Korea. With Giuseppe Sinopoli he founded the “Ensemble Internazionale” in the 1970s, with which he gave world premieres of works by contemporary musicians, broadcast by RAI and by the German Radio. He obtained a diploma in conducting with M° Donato Renzetti at the Accademia Pescarese. He conducted the Piccola Orchestra da Camera di Bologna and Amadeus Sinfonietta, performing symphonic and operatic programmes. He taught flute at the Conservatories of Padua and Vicenza, and he teaches master classes both in Italy and abroad. In 2010 he was celebrated at the Teatro Olimpico of Vicenza for his 50 years of activity, receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award by flute journal Falaut, “for his valuable contribution to the Italian flute school”. His discographic output has been rich, for labels such as Sipario Dischi, Rivoalto, Velut Luna, Dynamic, and Urania Records. His latest recording, with the complete works for the flute by Beethoven on the occasion of the composer’s 250th birthday, has been published by the journal Suonare News.
graduated in flute with top marks and honours at the Conservatory “G. Rossini” in Pesaro under the guidance of M° Santa Pirruccio. She attended postgraduate courses with M° Enzo Caroli and seminars of musical interpretation given by M° Maxence Larrieu and M° Jean-Claude Gerard. She also attended the International Seminary on the Kodaly Method in musical education given by M° Klara Nemes. She cooperated with several chamber and symphonic orchestras in the region of Marche, as well as with the Orchestra Filarmonica Marchigiana; with it, she participated in numerous operatic and symphonic seasons, and performed several world premieres with famous soloists and composers. She recorded various CDs and has been active for years as a concert musician in chamber music ensembles.
Enzo Caroli, flute
Fabiola Braconi, flute
Alvise Stiffoni, cello
Enzo Caroli, flute
Alvise Stiffoni, cello
Elisabetta Gesuato, piano
Franz Joseph Haydn (b Rohrau, Lower Austria, 31 March 1732; d Vienna, 31 May 1809). Austrian composer, brother of Michael Haydn. Neither he nor his contemporaries used the name Franz, and there is no reason to do so today. He began his career in the traditional patronage system of the late Austrian Baroque, and ended as a ‘free’ artist within the burgeoning Romanticism of the early 19th century. Famous as early as the mid-1760s, by the 1780s he had become the most celebrated composer of his time, and from the 1790s until his death was a culture-hero throughout Europe. Since the early 19th century he has been venerated as the first of the three ‘Viennese Classics’ (Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven). He excelled in every musical genre; during the first half of his career his vocal works were as famous as his instrumental ones, although after his death the reception of his music focussed on the latter (except for The Creation). He is familiarly known as the ‘father of the symphony’ and could with greater justice be thus regarded for the string quartet; no other composer approaches his combination of productivity, quality and historical importance in these genres. In the 20th century he was understood primarily as an ‘absolute’ musician (exhibiting wit, originality of form, motivic saturation and a ‘modernist’ tendency to problematize music rather than merely to compose it), but earnestness, depth of feeling and referential tendencies are equally important to his art.