Piano Trio

Franz Schubert

Piano Trio in Eb major

D897, Op. posth148 • “Notturno”

About this work

Aside from a single movement composed during the summer of 1812 (the so-called Sonatensatz in B flat major, D. 28), Franz Schubert wrote nothing for piano trio until just a year before his death, when he set to work on the two trios, D. 898 and D. 929. It was probably while working on the first of those two great works, the B flat major trio, that Schubert wrote the lone movement in E flat major that has since earned sobriquet "Notturno," or Nocturne; in all likelihood, this Adagio movement was at one point intended to be the slow movement of D. 898. Dismissed from that role the movement was issued on its own as Opus 148, two decades after Schubert's death.

The rich main theme of the "Notturno" is possessed of an unusual rhythmic character -- it cascades forward through the bar, either with pizzicati from the two string instruments or with the equivalent in rolled piano chords, only to suddenly halt each time; legend has it that this character comes from a folk tune Schubert heard one day while vacationing to the rural east of Salzburg. Exuberance, one might even say ecstasy, is not at all lacking in the faster contrasting sections; for the first of these Schubert moves up one half step to the key of E major, a modulation foreshadowed by a brief but passionate harmonic sequence earlier on in the piece.