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During his second visit to London, in 1794-95, Haydn composed about a dozen piano trios. Then in his early 60s, Haydn was at the height of his powers - this was the period of his final six "London" Symphonies - and the piano trios composed in London demonstrate a similar sophistication. His earlier piano trios, intended for the growing number of amateur musicians, were often in only two movements of no great complexity. The London trios, however, are much more refined music: they are in three movements and show greater individuality than the earlier trios. Haydn was certainly aware of the market for music like this among London's professional musicians (and among the city's many skilled amateur musicians), and he published these late trios in London rather than in Vienna.
The Piano Trio in A major is a good example of Haydn's late trios. The Allegro moderato opens with three firm introductory chords, then instantly settles into the flowing mood that marks the entire movement: Haydn significantly marks the opening subject cantabile. The music remains fairly gentle throughout this movement, and particularly remarkable is the harmonic freedom of Haydn's writing, especially in the development, where the music flows smoothly between unexpected keys.
The middle movement is an Andante in ABA form that moves along steadily in its 6/8 meter. After the genial opening movement, the A-minor tonality here sounds subdued; the lyric central episode, however, returns to A major. Without pause, Haydn proceeds directly into the Allegro finale. Frequent syncopations and chirping grace notes contribute to the lively spirits of this movement, which dances happily to the good-natured close.
At this concert Nicholas McGegan performs the keyboard part of the Trio on the fortepiano. Haydn's early keyboard music had been written for harpsichord, but by the late 1770s he was writing music with dynamic gradations that could achieved only on the piano, and in fact Haydn acquired a fortepiano during the 1780s. During his visits to London, Haydn became aware of the powerful new Broadwood fortepianos manufactured in that city, and some of his late solo piano music may have been written with that instrument in mind. The good-natured Trio in A major profits from the lighter sound of the fortepiano, a sonority much less imposing than that of the modern pianoforte.
- Eric Bromberger contributes frequently to the Los Angeles Philharmonic program; he is also a regular host of the Philharmonic's Upbeat Live pre-concert events.