Chamber Music: Trio for Violin, Cello and Piano (Leonard Bernstein)

(Born August 25, 1918, in Lawrence, Massachusetts; died October 14, 1990, in New York)

In the course of his career as one of the greatest American musicians of the late twentieth century, Leonard Bernstein was the Music Director of the New York Philharmonic.  He also composed an important repertoire of concert music that included three symphonies, several hit Broadway musicals, as well as ballet scores and devotional works of great originality.

In 1937 he composed a work which he regarded later as juvenilia, yet it was a large-scale work.  The Trio for Violin, Cello and Piano was first in a series of instrumental compositions which could not only stand by itself but from which Bernstein later was able to draw to provide material for passages in more mature works.  Bernstein first performed this Trio with some of his peers while he was studying at Harvard.

A charming, witty and entertaining composition, it begins with a slow and lyric introduction, Adagio non troppo, written in a chromatic free-tonal style.  The cello begins a six-note motif which is then passed on to the violin.  In the second movement, Tempo di marcia, listeners will be able to hear the foreshadowing of some fairly characteristic Broadway Bernstein sounds of, for example, On the Town.  The third movement, Largo-Allegro vivo e molto ritmico is the least like later Bernstein, and the least distinctive; it has a derivative late or post-Romantic feel, reminiscent especially of Brahms, and there is the sense that established classical composers had certainly influenced Bernstein.  Throughout the whole composition, Bernstein balances the voices of the three instruments; none of them is ever given a dominant role.

 
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