The Legacy of Schumann and Mendelssohn

Artistically fresh. © Charles Thibo

It was on one of those sunny and still warm evenings at the end of March. I walked through our garden and stopped at the cherry tree we planted when our daughter was born. How tall it had become, just like our daughter. And the parallels do not stop there. Both can be characterized by being fragile and sturdy at the time. Its delicate blossoms may occasionally freeze off, but the tree has weathered quite a few storms and is firmly rooted in the ground. My daughter is still vulnerable, but for being only 12 she acts remarkably reasonable. The tree and the girl have both their secrets, which I cannot reveal, but here is a secret I will share with you: Carl Reinecke’s Trio in A Major, op. 264.

A Romantic piece from a Romantic composer following in the footsteps of Felix Mendelssohn and Robert Schumann. A piece in four movements scored for clarinet, piano and viola. The trio feels like a silent meditation over the passing of time. Reinecke wrote it in 1903, seven years before his death, at the end of a long and distinguished career as a composer and a conductor. For 35 years he had led the Gewandhaus Orchestra from Leipzig, from 1897 to 1902 he had also been the director of the Leipzig conservatory. Both appointments underline how much he has been a successor to Mendelssohn.

Reinecke however was aware that his music language was not the fashion of the day anymore. He was neither sentimental nor bitter about it, not at all. He had stayed true to his artistic convictions, even though he realized that “in the present I play no part anymore.” The Trio in A Major is a very poetic work, and today, more than a century after its composition it actually sounds very fresh and modern to me. Perhaps because the music at the turn of the century some 100 years back does not sound very revolutionary to me now. Whether a piece had been written in say 1870 or in 1905, the common elements dominate. Today’s contemporary classical music however still has that revolutionary ring.

If both Mendelssohn and Schumann have influenced Reinecke, they also criticized the composers early works. Both found Reinecke’s earlier compositions somewhat trivial, without an individual expression, without imagination. Now that is one blame you cannot level at the trio. If it follows the classical structure of a Romantic chamber works, the piece shows a lot of imagination in the dialogue between the clarinet and the piano, interesting melodies and an overall very relaxing effect.

The trio has been recorded by Olivier Dartevelle, Pierre Henri Xuereb and Jean Schils.

© Charles Thibo

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de Chareli

Writer, photographer, piano student, music enthusiast. And a lot more. You are welcome to follow my blog.