Talk individually to a pianist, cellist, or violinist about the opening of the B-major Trio by Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) and enjoy the smiles that ensue. The pianist revels in the solo moment that unfurls the noble contours of the terrain ahead. The cellist anticipates an entrance as the first stringed voice in a dialogue, laying out a bold melodic path in that rich landscape. And the violinist relishes the restraint, the waiting for five, ten, 15, 20 measures before joining the conversation to galvanizing effect. Three players, but the mood is symphonic, and emphatically collaborative, each contributing equally to the whole.
The trio has been a favorite of audiences and players alike since Brahms himself sat in at the piano, but the early opus number 8 is deceptive. The first version of the trio was published in 1854 when Brahms was just 21. Given a chance to revise his trio by a new publisher, Brahms took it up again, this time in 1888, 35 years after his initial efforts!
So extensive were his changes that he humorously suggested it should be republished as his Op. 108. The earlier version was never withdrawn, but is now seldom played, and what changes Brahms chose to make have not dimmed his youthful generosity of melody, and only intensified his emotional raptures.