B3LLA Piano Trio

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SCHUBERT's Piano Trio No. 2 in E-Flat Major (1827)

IIAndante con moto

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   The second movement is a haunting procession, marching along with the air of a funeral. The famous melody heard in the opening, first sung by the cello and then by the piano contains the 'germ' of musical material used later and throughout the whole movement:

As we look at the theme we see two 'octave leaps' in bar 14 (a higher G to a lower G). Try to remember this simple motif as the movement unfolds. From the beginning the music remains quiet and reserved until a surprisingly loud and exuberant section ensues at about minute 3. If you compare the 'theme' or 'subject' of this boisterous music to the original cello melody, you will notice that the entire fiery section is composed using the exceedingly minimalistic motif from measure 14!:

   Listen to how Schubert ingeniously changes the meaning of the gesture using simple harmonic reinterpretations and of course his limitless imagination. Schubert was perhaps second to none in many aspects of music composition including his brilliant handling of harmony and form, and this is an example of his resourcefulness and ability to do a lot with a little (even as Franz is an extremely repetitive composer and will not win any awards for the conciseness of his movements). It is that familiarity factor that makes his compositions cohere perfectly to themselves, bearing an effusive personality that can often be addicting. Not long after the loud and exhilarating version of the motif begins, it performs a quick about-face, preparing us for the sad inevitability that began the movement. Only this time, it is even sadder. As you experience the beautiful procession once again, prepare your ear for a sudden loss of stability in the music as the piano begins rumbling low on the instrument like approaching thunder. It is at this point that Schubert opens the chest of the movement and almost rips its heart out on the spot. An outpouring of the unbearable pain and anger contained within the composer explodes, giving the audience a terribly vivid view of some very burdensome emotions; a troublesome job that the 'pathetically huggable' opening theme leaves humbly to higher forces. Here's what the music looks like:

You can see how the 'motif' from the main theme is now the 'main' theme of all of this explosive music:

Just as the trio erupts with almost symphonic loudness, Schubert dissipates the tension and prepares us for the only kind of music that could effectively make us forget what we have just heard. The cello, using the motif from the opening, calmly consoles our pounding hearts as it sings a blissful song.  The graceful meditation continues as we hear sacred music highly reminiscent of "Ava Maria." All of this music and emotion still based solely on a two note gesture.

  Just as Schubert assumes we would be immersed in a state of complete relaxation he increase the harmonic tension of this peaceful music and begins a momentous crescendo that will launch us into the loud exuberant music we heard earlier. Again, the section is rivetingly fun and loud, this time using both stringed instruments to employ the motif to leap up and down the scale of A major. In order to end the movement Schubert must return back to the key of C which is not at all closely related to A.

   To do this he cleverly, and with perfect harmonic progression twists us back and forth between the two keys so smoothly that you would never assume they were not related. The joyous music finally lands with great force in C major. Then, with one strategic 'sleight of hand,' Schubert presents to us the dark key of c minor, the sad key that began this powerful procession. With fateful timing the famous 'misty eyed' lament that opened the movement returns for the last time. As he does in many of the beloved masterpieces he composed, the composer adds a 'Schubert twist' to the final reoccurrence of the main theme. If you listen carefully as the piano plays the first two notes of the minor (sad) melody, the strings, plucking, re-harmonize the music underneath to change the key to major (happy) for a moment. This minuscule moment of relief is short lived, in fact the theme enjoys only two beats of 'happy' chords before it is transformed back to its inevitable final form.

The strings prepare the final cadence. As though standing over an empty grave, and with glancing rhetoric, they seem to ask, "Do you have any last words?" Holding a cadencial chord the strings listen as the piano speaks the last words of the condemned before lying at rest in c minor. Finally, in the strings, and with the motif that was to be the heartbeat of the whole movement, you can hear its final two...