Piano Trio No.25

Joseph Haydn

Piano Trio No.25 in G major

Hob. XV/25, Op. 82/1 • “Gypsy”

About this work

Although their popularity continues to be vastly overshadowed by the universal success of his 12 "London" symphonies (Nos. 93-104), Haydn devoted equal energy during his two visits to London in 1791-92 and 1794-95 to trios for piano, with violin, and cello. The world-renowned Haydn scholar and chronicler Professor H.C. Robbins Landon has pointed out that "in many ways, these trios are the most neglected works of the period, and probably of Haydn's entire output."

The piano trio genre has its origins in the Baroque trio sonata, in which a solo instrument, usually a violin, is accompanied by a keyboard instrument and a bass stringed instrument (originally a violone or viola da gamba), and there is plenty of evidence to suggest that a number of Haydn's trios began life as sonatas for keyboard with violin. We owe it to Haydn's friendship with several prominent society women that he went to such trouble over these particular works. The trios Nos. 35-37 (Haydn normally composed them in groups of three) were dedicated to the Princess Marie Esterházy, also recipient of a number of Haydn's keyboard sonatas. His next set of piano trios, Nos. 38-40, were written and published in London in 1795, and were dedicated to Mrs. Rebecca Schroeter, one of the composer's closest friends during his London sojourns. The two corresponded frequently after his return to Vienna that same year. Two installments from this set are exceptionally important works. The last, No. 40, in the uncommon key of F sharp minor, for example, bears comparison with other works in this key: the similarly dramatic "Farewell" symphony, No. 45, and the fourth of the Op. 50 quartets.

But the Trio in G major, Hob. 15/25, has good claims to be nominated as the most popular of all Haydn's piano trios. As with most of these works, it has three movements; the first is a series of variations, most of them with repeated sections, on a straightforward Andante theme heard in the violin (which often doubles the piano) at the start of the work. In the variations which follow, the basic theme is little altered although it is subjected to a certain degree of rhythmic manipulation, and there are the expected minor-key excursions to add further interest.

The central movement is in the contrasting key of E major, but it is the spirited rondo all'ongarese (in Hungarian gypsy-style) finale that has given this piano trio its popular nickname -- the "Gypsy Rondo" trio. The first published edition laid considerable stress on this aspect of the work; a press announcement highlighted the last movement "in the Gypsie' stile," but the zestful melody upon which it is based is typical of the Magyar folk themes to which Haydn resorted not infrequently. This movement, however, has the special distinction of being the only Rondo finale to be found in any of his piano trios from this period. Of particular interest to the listener are the several "Minore" episodes, where the violin takes up the frenzied dance with even greater intensity. This spirited and brilliant trio ends in the expected home key of G major.