About this Piece
Clara Schumann’s Piano Trio (1846) begins softly, but with a robust main theme with the kind of bold profile that lends itself to points of imitation and motivic development. She recapitulates her secondary material in G major, before returning to G minor for a dramatic coda. The Scherzo is a rustic piece in the tempo of a minuet, filled with snap rhythms carried by the violin. The Trio, however, plays across-the-bar metrical games and has a very expansive, Beethovenian transition back to the main music. The Andante is a lovely instrumental song in G major, though not without its own offbeat tuggings and a fiercely contrasting middle section in E minor.
It is not hard to hear how Brahms would have admired the finale, an ostensibly relaxed Allegretto with Eastern European coloring. Clara and Robert Schumann often influenced each other’s work, and like the finale of Robert’s Quintet, the Trio’s finale mixes sonata and rondo elements. Its main melody is subtly related to the main theme of the first movement and polyphonically pliable. Clara varies it in an extraordinary episode in A minor, and she references other material from the previous movements as well. —Program notes by Ricky O’Bannon