ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — One of the four works on an upcoming program of piano trios poses special challenges for the players. The work is Franz Schubert’s Piano Trio No. 1 in B-flat major.
Elias-Axel Pettersson, the pianist in the Saturday, Jan. 4, Albuquerque concert, said in an email that one major challenge is that the Schubert is long – about 45 minutes in length – and is also enormous in scope.
Plus, Pettersson noted, cellists especially have a difficult time because “much of the work is written in an uncomfortable register. Many cellists simply won’t play the work for it makes too many technical and musical demands.”
Cellist David Schepps will perform the Schubert in the concert with Pettersson and violinist Krzysztof Zimowski.
“If I could describe the overall effect of the trio in one word, that word would be triumphant,” Pettersson said.
He said it is one of two great Schubert pieces that represent the zenith of the piano trio repertoire.
The German-born Schubert completed the piano trios in 1827, the year before he died at the age of 31.
The earliest work on the program is Franz Joseph Haydn’s Piano Trio No. 40 in F-sharp major. The Austrian composed it in 1795.
“The Haydn starts with a slightly melancholic melody, but soon becomes boisterous,” Pettersson wrote in his email.
“Especially in the latter part of the first movement, and (in) the third movement, there are many scalar passages and runs. … Haydn’s sense of humor and drama are also evident: He gives the pianist numerous opportunities for small cadenzas.”
Another work is Ernest Bloch’s Three Nocturnes for Piano Trio. Pettersson said that to his knowledge the performance is a New Mexico premiere.
“The piece is hardly known outside hard-core Bloch fans and has rarely been performed or recorded,” he said. “I think it is a gem and am happy to share it with New Mexico audiences.”
The Swiss-born Bloch composed the nocturnes in 1924, which was during the period that he was the first musical director of the Cleveland Institute of Music.
The fourth work on the program is Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Piano Trio No. 1 in G minor. It premiered in 1892. The young Rachmaninoff wrote it as part of a graduation requirement at the Moscow Conservatory but before he developed his compositional voice, Pettersson said.
“The opening melody is brooding and almost Arabian/Oriental in nature, which makes sense when you realize the cross-cultural exchange between 19th-century Russia and China/Middle East,” he wrote in the email.
Pettersson, who grew up in Albuquerque, lives in Montreal. Zimowski is the concertmaster of the New Mexico Philharmonic. Schepps is a cellist with the philharmonic and is the cello professor at the University of New Mexico.