1854: Brahms: Piano Trio No. 1 in B major

SATURDAY, October 17, 2020 – 7:27 AM

Brahms: Piano Trio No. 1 in B major, age 20

(Brahms completed this in January 1854, when he was not yet 21 years old. It was premiered on 13 October 1855 in Danzig. Brahms produced a revised version of the work in the summer of 1888. This of course brings up the question of how much he changed his teenage composition. I heard this in my car, on the radio, and I immediately knew I liked it and wanted to hear it again. So now I want to know what he changed.)

It got shorter…

The revised edition is only about three quarters the length, depending on whether you are considering play length or number of measures. Either way Brahms cut a lot of it, and his two versions are hugely different.

Here are both versions…

I found the score to both and studied the 1st movement, and I’ll return to this later to get a more thorough picture.

The first movement

  • 0:01 I. Allegro con brio — Tranquillo — In tempo ma sempre sostenuto , B major: This long version got shortened from 494 bars to 289 bars, so he cut around 40%. Why? The original is just just longer. It might not be as tight. It wanders a lot, but there are a lot of interesting things, including a short fugue. By the way, there is a phrase over and over again that sounds just like “A whole New World”. I vastly prefer the original.
  • 0:01 I. Allegro con moto — Tempo un poco più Moderato — Schnell (494 bars), B major: This is the revised, shorter version. Is this another example of an older composer “improving” his earlier work, in self-doubt, but to the detriment of the music? My impression is that this is slicker, more condensed, but I miss some of the exploration of his earlier version. I found this boring compared to his original.

Second movement

Third movement:

Fourth movement:

Instrumentation:

  • piano
  • violin
  • cello

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