Trio in A minor, Op. 50, 1st movement, Part 1
In this masterclass, Professor Günter Pichler discusses sound quality, phrasing, and intonation in the first movement of Piotr Illich Tchaikovski’s Piano Trio. In the beginning of the class, he focuses on helping the group create the best, most atmospheric opening possible. He helps the cellist find the right quality of sound and phrasing in his opening solo, encouraging him to always consider the beginning, middle, and end of every note and phrase. He then works with the other members of the ensemble to apply these musical ideas to their later iterations of the material. Throughout the movement, Pichler guides the group through achieving an elegant, flowing character that is devoid of unnecessary stress or heaviness. He also provides suggestions for how to practice intonation. He advises the group to spend a great deal of time recording themselves both individually and together, and warns against repeating mistakes often enough to automate and adapt to them.
Mastering sound, phrasing, and note connection in the opening.
Matching the sound quality and character of the thematic material as it is passed around.
How to practice and play with accurate intonation.
Finding a more easy-going, flowing character.
Capturing the right articulations.
Piotr Illich Tchaikovski composed his Piano Trio, his only work for this combination of instruments, between 1881-82. Subtitled “À la mémoire d’un grand artiste,” the piece was written in memory of his close friend, famous pianist Nikolai Rubenstein, who had died earlier in 1881. It was initially performed only in private; its public debut occurred in Moscow at the end of 1882 after significant revision. Piotr Illich Tchaikovski struggled to write for piano trio, finding it difficult to blend the piano with other string soloists. However, he seemed to gain inspiration from Rubenstein’s death, because he composed the work without a commission or prompt, and its length is considerable, lasting around forty-five minutes. The first movement, Pezzo elegiaco (Moderato assai – Allegro giusto), opens with a captivating cello melody. Vacillating between major and minor, the movement is dark in character and symphonic in scope, concluding with a funeral march. The second movement, Tema con variazioni: Andante con moto – Variazione finale e coda, opens with a simple theme in E major and cycles through several variations that build in intensity and complexity, incorporating unexpected forms such as a mazurka and fugue.
Aim for excellence! You can improve your skills with expert advice. Download the annotated sheet music of this chamber music masterclass. Please note that this piece has been annotated in accordance to Günter Pichler’s feedback and comments.
1st violin and founding member of the Alban Berg Quartet.
Günter Pichler was born and raised in Kufstein, Tyrol, Austria. He was accepted at the University of Music and Performing Arts, Vienna in 1955. He joined the Vienna Symphony as concertmaster under Wolfgang Sawallisch at the age of 18. At 21, he was made concertmaster by the Vienna Philharmonic thanks to a tie-breaking vote on his appointment by conductor Herbert von Karajan.
From 1963 to 2009, he taught at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna. From 1993 to 2012, he was a professor at Cologne University of Music. In 2007, he was appointed head of the International Institute for Chamber Music at the Escuela Superior de Musica Reina Sofia in Madrid.
Many of his students received international prizes, have become concertmasters in important orchestras, and/or made a name for themselves with solo careers. Moreover, among his students are String Quartets such as the Artemis, Aron, Aris, Belcea, Acies, Amaryllis, Casals, Cavaleri, Eliot, Fauré, Finzi, Notos, Minetti, Piatti, Simply, Schumann, van Kuijk, Vision, Voce and the Trio con brio, Atos, Eggner, Morgenstern, Zadig Trios.
In addition to his work with the Alban Berg Quartett and as a teacher, Günter Pichler started a career as a conductor. He has since conducted many orchestras on concerts and on tour, including the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra, Vienna and Israel Chamber Orchestras, the Ensemble Orchestral de Paris, the Orchestra della Toscana Firenze, I Pomeriggi Musicali di Milano, the Hallé Orchestra, the Orchestre nationale de Lille, and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra of Flanders. In Japan, he has conducted all the great symphony orchestras such as the Tokyo, Osaka, Sendai Philharmonic Orchestra and the NHK Symphony Orchestra. From 2001 to 2006, he was the principal guest conductor of the Orchestra Ensemble Kanazawa and has since become its artistic advisor.
Born in Votkinsk, Russia on April 25th, 1840, composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was the son of a metalworker and a French immigrant, and the second of six children.
Young Pyotr showed an interest in music early on and, although destined to be a public servant at first, was placed under the care of a professional music teacher by his father shortly after the sudden death of his mother from cholera.
He travelled through Europe extensively and settled in St-Petersburg when he was a young man, to study music at the newly founded conservatory. Tchaikovsky had a very private life that was constantly under scrutiny due to his rising fame. He married a young woman to avoid questions about his sexual orientation, but was very unhappy. By 1878, he began to write music full time after finding a patroness outside Russia and wrote most of his most famous works such as the opera Eugene Onegin, the Symphony No. 4 in F Minor, and the Violin Concerto in D Major. Tchaikovsky grew tired of his busy city life and rented a place in the countryside, where he spent his days walking, reading, and composing music. He died of cholera in 1893 at the age of 53 after drinking unboiled water.
Tchaikovsky's legacy reaches many people thanks to a very emotionally involving and rich musical landscape that keeps seducing audiences all over the world.