The Golub-Kaplan-Carr Trio
Ludwig van Beethoven: Trio No. 9 in G major, Op. 121a ("Kakadu")
Sergei Rachmaninoff: Trio Élégiaque No. 2 in d minor, Op. 9-I. Moderato
Antonin Dvorak: Trio in f minor, Op. 65-II. Scherzo
Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Trio Élégiaque
So wrote the 19-year-old composer Sergei Rachmaninoff to a friend shortly after completing his second Trio Élégiaque in 1893. He had begun the work immediately upon hearing of the death of his beloved teacher at the Moscow Academy of Music - the composer Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky - who had taken a special interest in Rachmaninoff’s budding career and with whom he had developed a close spiritual relationship, as reflected in the sorrowful, mourning tone which underlies even the more animated passages in the work. Rachmaninoff was on the brink of international fame at the time, having just premiered his prelude in c-sharp minor (which would soon catapult him to stardom) and made his first public appearances as a pianist.
Tchaikovsky’s death at that moment was a crushing blow, and Rachmaninoff’s efforts to create a fitting tribute to his teacher can be seen in his attempts to link the piece to Tchaikovsky in various ways. First, Rachmaninoff’s choice of a piano trio was a bow to a trio Tchaikovsky himself wrote to commemorate the death of Nikolai Rubinstein, which he dedicated to "the memory of a great artist" (Op. 50). Rachmaninoff used the same words in his dedication of the Trio Élégiaque. The young composer also echoed the structure and style of his mentor’s Op. 50 trio in the use of variations and in the concerto-like, orchestral third movement which features a virtuosic piano part, performed by Rachmaninoff himself at the premiere in January 1894. The theme of the variations section was likewise a reference to his teacher - a theme from Rachmaninoff’s orchestral piece, The Crag, which Tchaikovsky had especially liked and which he was to have conducted at its premiere scheduled for January 1894. The trio was a very personal tribute, on which Rachmaninoff had worked "earnestly, intensely, and painstakingly" as a young composer, and a piece he would return to again and again, bringing out new versions in 1907 and 1917.