Boris Tchaikovsky: Piano Trio in B Minor
The first in his collection of chamber works, Boris Tchaikovsky’s (no relation to Pyotr Ilyich) Piano trio in B minor was composed in 1953. Whilst studying at the prestigious Moscow Conservatory, Tchaikovsky was a student of Myaskovsky and Shostakovich. Lots of Tchaikovsky’s orchestral works have now been recorded, but only a selection of his chamber works have. The Piano Trio in B minor is certainly influenced by the likes of Shostakovich and Mussorgsky, but is still unique to Tchaikovsky.
Set into three movements, the trio takes c.25 minutes to perform.
Movement I – Toccata: Presto
Full of energy and drive, the opening passage of this movement fizzes with excitement, with all three voices going separate directions. The energy carries throughout most of the movement, which keeps both performer and listener on their toes. Tchaikovsky’s dramatic changes in dynamics adds to the sheer drama of the music, with the quiet sections bolstering those powerful tutti realisations. A new syncopated theme takes hold of the central section, before the feisty toccata theme returns to conclude the movement off with as much energy as it began with.
Movement II – Aria
The lyrical second movement opens with a soft violin solo accompanied by the piano. The lullaby-like theme is then shadowed by the cello as this soft opening lays the foundations for the movement. The violin takes the melodic lead throughout most of this movement, with the fundamental development coming from that part. As the music meanders along, there is a distinct lack of textural development, with the music sounding rather sparse throughout. Unlike the first movement, the second focuses on the melody more than the textures created. The music grows to a small climax near the end of the movement which sees all three voices come together. After a reinstatement of the opening violin lullaby, the movement concludes quietly.
Movement III – Variations
The theme and variations finale movement opens with a statement from the piano. A set of variations follows, each focussing on different orchestration, subtle melody changes and development to the harmony. The loud and boisterous variations are welcome by this point and adds some fire to the music. Tchaikovsky’s rich texture return for lots of this movement and this foreshadows where his music took him after composing this work. As the music winds down to a slow and quiet end, the violin reaches its highest note of the whole trio as the piano plays its final chords to conclude this intriguing piano trio.
Ⓒ Alex Burns