• Jonathan Harvey
  • Piano Trio (1971)

  • Novello & Co Ltd (World)
  • vn vc pf
  • 15 min

Programme Note

My Piano Trio was written in 1971 for colleagues of mine in the music department at Southampton University. I wanted to write a performer's piece to exploit and fulfil the nature of my friends' talents. For instance, because of the mutual understanding they acquired as a group, I could write passages in which one or two of them plays in independent tempo for short stretches and quickly gets back in again. Throughout the piece there is an obsessional background use of a few 3 and 4 note cells which gradually become more and more amalgamated until they become the final 12 note set, but the foreground is very widely varied. I have even divided it into 3 contrasting movements. The first, 'Song', is a brief lyrical movement opposing linear fragments played by the strings in octaves and to the piano playing complete lines much more rapidly: typical string sound against typical piano sound, or 'received' string sonata texture.

In the next movement, entitled 'System', I break this up with four textures in which the sonorities meet and even blend. The various characteristics of the four interact on each other in four large sections, each containing four characterised subsections, all proportionately related.

The third movement, entitled 'Rite', starts with a chordal representation of the combined sets, which sounds like a ghostly sort of chorale. It finishes the trajectory started by the second movement, from which it seems naturally to emerge, with a rise to a climax and a long fragmentary wind-down back to the chorale in the piano - also it is a part of the larger trajectory which spans the whole work, evident, for instance, in the repeat of the quick high sounds characteristic of the first movement.

© Jonathan Harvey