Program Notes © 2017 by Miriam Villchur Berg*

Trio Solisti

Maria Bachmann, violin
Alexis Pia Gerlach, cello
Fabio Bidini, piano

Sunday, August 27, 2017, 4 pm

New Foundations: Toward a Modern Chamber Music Repertoire is a mini-festival of chamber music composed in the last thirty years.
The series is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

The Sixth of Seven Programs this Season Honoring the Composers Aaron Jay Kernis,
Johannes Brahms, and Antonín Dvořák


Piano Trio No. 2 in G Minor, Op. 26 (1879)     Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904)
Allegro moderato
Scherzo. Presto
Finale. Allegro non tanto

Piano Trio No. 2 (2017)     Jennifer Higdon (b. 1962)
Commissioned for Trio Solisti


Piano Trio No. 1 in B-Flat Major, D. 898, Op. 99 (1827)    Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
Allegro moderato
Andante, un poco mosso
Scherzo: Allegro
Rondo: Allegro vivace


Saturday, September 2, 8 pm.   |   Jazz at the Maverick   |   In the Spirit of Don Cherry   |   Karl Berger Octet

Sunday, September 3, 4 pm   |   Concert for the Friends of Maverick   |   The Horszowski Trio
Music of Schubert, Mendelssohn, and Daron Hagen.

A sixty-minute program with no intermission. Regular Maverick tickets are not valid for this event and there
is no “Rock Bottom” seating. Admission is by contribution only. A donor of $50 receives one ticket; a donor of
$100 or more receives two. Reception for the Friends of Maverick follows the concert.

The Yamaha DC7XE grand piano in the Maverick Concert Hall is
a generous loan from Yamaha Artists Services.



Trio Solisti has forged a reputation as “the most exciting piano trio in America,” (The New Yorker) with a passionate performance style that combines exceptional virtuosity and musical insight. The ensemble possesses a repertoire that encompasses both the standards and works by contemporary composers, and rave reviews follow the trio throughout its concert tours. Noted Wall Street Journal critic Terry Teachout proclaimed that Trio Solisti is “the group that to my mind has now succeeded the Beaux Arts Trio as the outstanding chamber music ensemble of its kind.” The New York Times called it “probably the finest American [piano trio] currently on the field,” and the trio was praised by The Washington Post for a “transcendent performance.”

Trio Solisti is comprised of violinist Maria Bachmann, cellist Alexis Pia Gerlach, and pianist Fabio Bidini. Founded in 2001, the ensemble has performed on major concert series, including Great Performers at Lincoln Center, the People’s Symphony concerts at Town Hall, the Washington Performing Arts Society at the Kennedy Center, Seattle’s Meany Hall, and La Jolla’s Revelle Series. In 2015, the trio performed a three-concert series at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, presenting the complete piano chamber music of Johannes Brahms, with guest artists Anthony McGill (clarinet), Jesse Mills (violin), Richard O’Neill and Hsin-Yun Huang (viola), and Julie Landsman (French horn).

The trio’s 2016-2017 season included the world premiere of Pulitzer Prize-winner Jennifer Higdon’s Piano Trio No. 2, co-commissioned for the ensemble by the Arizona Friends of Chamber Music and the Harvard Musical Association. The trio also performed at the Dallas Chamber Music Society, Chamber Music Monterey Bay, the Chamber Music Society of Salt Lake, Chamber Music Tulsa, the Society of the Four Arts in Palm Beach, Chamber Music @ Beall (University of Oregon), and Syracuse Friends of Chamber Music. Other leading composers with whom the trio has collaborated are Lowell Lieberman, Philip Glass, Kevin Puts, and Paul Moravec, whose Tempest Fantasy (written for Trio Solisti) won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize.

Trio Solisti is a prolific recording ensemble, it’s two-CD set Tchaikovsky & Rachmaninoff Trios was released on Bridge Records in 2016. The ensemble won widespread critical acclaim for its 2014 recording of the Ravel and Chausson piano trios. The New York Times raved, “startlingly fresh and fascinating... plenty of fire and excitement in this standout recording.” Gramophone Magazine described it as “a performance of kaleidoscopic hues, beauty of sound, and bountiful panache. Whether silken or sweeping, the music receives idiomatic and sophisticated treatment as shaped by these keenly perceptive artists.” The trio’s earlier recordings are Dvořák Trios, Café Music, Brahms Trios, Tempest Fantasy, and the ensemble’s own arrangement of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition.

Trio Solisti has returned annually to Maverick Concerts for more than ten years, and this year proudly marks its twelfth year as ensemble-in-residence at Adelphi University in Garden City, New York. The trio has presented thirteen seasons of Telluride MusicFest, its annual summer chamber music festival in Colorado.


When his first attempt at an opera was unsuccessful (it was too challenging for the musicians), Dvořák took the setback as a sign, and decided to change his compositional direction. He began studying Slavonic folklore, and moved away from the pervasive influence of German composers. The Piano Trio in G Minor, Op. 26 is clearly marked on the manuscript “Piano Trio No. 2,” although we know it was actually the fourth one he had written. Apparently he took to heart the lesson of his great benefactor, Johannes Brahms, and destroyed any works he felt were unworthy.

The Trio opens (Allegro moderato) with two dramatic chords, followed by a gentle theme based on musical turns. These big chords return periodically to punctuate the sweeping, waltz-like melody. A second theme, introduced by the cello, is also based on a musical figuration, a sort of slowed-down trill.

In the slow movement (Largo), the instruments explore various keys before settling into E-flat major, the relative major of the home key. The cello sings the poignant theme, which is developed in a pattern of chromatically rising and descending tonalities.

The Scherzo (Presto) is a Slavonic dance, back in G minor. At the end of the first Scherzo section, the cello plays the theme more slowly, after which the central Trio offers a sequence of rising arpeggios and cadences, like a simple folk melody. The restless dance returns, as does the cello’s slowed-down version, before a race to the finish.

For the Finale (Allegro non tanto), which is also in the home key, meter is once again an important element. Each instrument takes up the short-short-long refrain, with one instrument often playing against the more rhythmic material offered by the other two. As is common in Eastern European music, sections of slow, elegiac music are alternated with fast, dramatic declamations reminiscent of the powerful chords that opened the first movement. And, of course, the high-stepping dance has the final word.

Jennifer Higdon taught herself to play the flute at the age of fifteen, and began her formal music education at eighteen. She started composing at twenty-one, and went on to earn a PhD in music from the University of Pennsylvania, where she studied with George Crumb. Despite her late start, she is a major contemporary composer, with commissions from many major orchestras as well as from Trio Solisti and the Tokyo String Quartet. She earned both a Pulitzer Prize and a Grammy in 2010, and has received many honors, including awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, the American Academy of Arts & Letters, the Koussevitzky Foundation, the Pew Fellowship in the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and ASCAP. She currently teaches composition at the Curtis Institute of Music.

Higdon’s Piano Trio No. 2 was commissioned for Trio Solisti by the Arizona Friends of Chamber Music and the Harvard Musical Association. The composer writes: “In my second piano trio, I continue to ponder the questions of my first piano trio… Can music reflect colors, and can colors be reflected in music?

“Wondrous White: The symbolism of white… religious, bright, hopeful. And the immense use of white in all art… Canvases start out as some form of white, in preparation for painting. And it is often used as a highlight, to lighten, and to create a glow. In fact, in scientific terms, white is the presence of all colors… Our eyes perceive the collection of all colors together as ‘white.’

“Brilliant Blue: Represents so many different moods... from the literal term of feeling blue, to the blue sky. The recent discovery of a new form of blue made me think about all of the different permutations a color has.”

In the last year of his life, Franz Schubert was both productive and successful. In addition to the private Schubertiaden—salon evenings centered on his songs, chamber works, and improvisations—there were public performances and publications of many of his compositions. He wrote two piano trios: Op. 99 in B flat and Op. 100 in E flat, both composed specifically for the Bocklet-Schuppanzigh-Linke Trio. Schubert himself wrote a comparison of these two trios, calling Op. 99 “passive, feminine, lyrical,” as compared with the E-flat Op. 100, which he said was “active, masculine, dramatic.”

The Piano Trio No. 1 in B-Flat Major, D. 898, Op. 99, which was not published until eight years after Schubert's death, is an unusually large-scale work in this genre, its four movements taking a total of around forty minutes. After the strings introduce the first theme in the Allegro moderato, the piano takes it up, establishing all three instruments as of equal importance. For the second theme, the cello sings a lyrical song, with the violin doubling an octave higher. The two themes are developed, taken into the minor, put into various keys, and given various emotional affects, some of which are, despite Schubert’s characterization of the work, quite powerful and not at all passive.

For the slow movement (Andante, un poco mosso), Schubert moves to the key of E-flat major, and presents a gently rocking melody in a sweetly cadenced 6/8 meter. Some have called this a barcarolle—a Venetian gondola song—noting the feeling of undulating water.

The Scherzo (Allegro) is in classic minuet form, back in the home key. A rustic mood, with a heavily accented downbeat, is contrasted by the central trio, which is a flowing waltz with the instruments imitating each other constantly. The exuberant folk dance returns to round out the ABA format.

In the Finale (Rondo: Allegro vivace), Schubert maintains the key of B-flat as well as the light-hearted feeling. It is a rondo, with a recurring theme that is extensively developed, as are the episodes that are interposed throughout. Robert Schumann wrote of this trio, “One glance at Schubert’s Trio (Op. 99), and the troubles of our human existence disappear and all the world is fresh and bright again.”

All program notes are copyright Miriam Villchur Berg.
It is permissible to quote short excerpts for reviews. For permission to quote more extensive portions, or to copy, publish, or make other use of these program notes, please contact her at miriam@hvc.rr.com.

Program Notes © 2017 by Miriam Villchur Berg