Joaquin Turina Piano Trio No. 2 in B Minor, Op. 76 (1933)
Brahms Piano Trio No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 101
Arno Babajanian Piano Trio in F-Sharp Minor (1952)
“Discoveries” is an opportunity for the Priday-Kloeckner-Armstrong Trio to present, alongside Brahms’s beloved C minor Trio, two lesser-known gems, both emotionally-laden and highly appealing works that represent a fascinating blend of international influences. The Trio explores a juxtaposition between music of three countries, all within the same general movement, but each with the flavor, style, and proportion specific to its own culture.
Hailing from Seville, Joaquin Turina (1882-1949) was part of a group of Spanish composers in the early twentieth century, including Albeniz, Granados, and his lifelong friend Manuel de Falla, who incorporated the musical flavors of Spain while writing music within standard European forms. Working in the early twentieth century, Turina was in particular strongly influenced by Debussy, Moszkowski, and Franck. His Piano Trio No. 2, composed in 1933, exhibits this blending of elements delightfully infused with the charm and flavor of Spanish rhythm and timbre. The irrepressible lyricism of his writing, the harmonic piquancy, rhythmic vibrancy (including a perpetuum mobile), and innovative textures in his 2nd piano trio bring all of this to life vividly.
Brahms’s (1833-1897) well-known and beloved Piano Trio No. 3 in C Minor is the final and most compact of his three piano trios. Pithy and intense, it is a taut statement of a form perfected through Brahms’s own chamber music output. His uncanny knack for composing timeless melodies that one imagines on a first hearing that one has heard them all of one’s life sends the music right to the deepest part of our hearts. One imagines a chamber/salon soirée at the home of Clara Schumann or Joseph Joachim.
Though virtually unknown in the United States, Arno Babajanian (1921-1983) is revered as a national musical treasure in his native Armenia and is wildly popular in Russia. He left a substantial body of work, including a cello concerto for Mstislav Rostropovich, of which a stunning achievement is his Piano Trio, written in 1952. Babajanian’s music blends elements both eastern and western: the soulful echoes of Armenian folk melody, mode, and rhythm combined with the romantic spirit of contemporaries Khachaturian, Rachmaninov, Shostakovich, and Prokofiev. The first movement’s fervently Romantic contrapuntalism recalls the best of Rachmaninov; an incredibly vulnerable, sweet, and truthful second movement proves the almost minimalist contrast to the raging activity of the movements to either side of it. And the irresistible last movement dances trippingly along in 5/8 and 7/8 while never losing a moment’s confidence. Tonal, melodic, and emotionally direct, Babajanian’s Piano Trio expresses a full spectrum of emotions – at times darkly brooding, ethereal, energetic, sweetly melancholic, and full of drama.