The ATOS Trio’s name is an acronym formed from the artists’ names: violinist Annette von Hehn, pianist Thomas Hoppe and cellist Stefan Heinemeyr. They have been performing since 2003 in the world’s major concert series. Praised for warmth of sound, pitch-perfect unanimity of phrasing and dynamic interpretations, the Trio impresses audiences and critics alike: “… a true ensemble with an admirable fusion of voices and the gift of finding an expressive depth in their performances” (The Age, Melbourne); and, “… One of the elite Piano Trios playing before the public today.” (The Washington Post). The ATOS Trio performs regularly at such venues as Carnegie Hall; the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam; Wigmore Hall, London, and at noted festivals worldwide, including Budapest Spring, City of London, and Enescu in Bucharest. Awards and prizes include the prestigious Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson International Trio Award, a Borletti-Buitoni Trust Special Ensemble Award in 2012, and First Prize, Grand Prize, Musica Viva Tour Prize and Audience Prize, all at the 5th Melbourne International Chamber Music Competition. The Trio was a BBC New Generation Artist for 2009-11. Their highly praised CD recordings cover a wide range of repertoire.
Joaquín Turina was born in Seville; he first studied music in Seville and later in Madrid. Fellow Spanish composer Isaac Albéniz provided the introductions for Turina to study in Paris, where he remained from 1905 to 1914. In Paris, he took composition lessons from Vincent d’Indy and studied piano with Moritz Moszkowski. Like his countryman and friend, Manuel de Falla, he got to know the impressionist composers Debussy and Ravel, and also Fauré; these musical contacts had an influence on his works. Turina’s chamber works include several piano trios, string quartets and sonatas, a piano quartet, a piano quintet, and a piano sextet.
Written in 1933, Turina’s Piano Trio No. 2 is lively, sparkling, evocative, and concise. It is associated both with the Classical and Romantic piano-trio traditions and the harmony, color, and relaxed form of early 20th-century French and Spanish classical music. Spanish elements pervade the work’s melodic intervals, chord progressions, and rhythmic patterns.
The first movement presents clear, contrasting themes, first in minor, then major keys, followed by fresh melodies in a development section. The second movement is a brief scherzo based on a spicy dance rhythm and a bright countermelody, followed by a languid trio. The finale is a majestic landscape miniature, with all the poetry and perfume of great Spanish music. A rondo, it visits several vivid scenes between dark recurring refrains. Using a technique that Turina likely acquired in his French schooling, the piece takes a cyclic look backward in the final episode, recalling the themes from previous movements before a dazzling entrance into the concluding, wonderfully elaborated refrain. [Adapted from Joaquin Turina, by Kai Christiansen, Earsense, http://www.earsense.org/chamberbase, accessed October 22, 2017]
Mendelssohn composed his Trio No. 2 in 1845; it was the last chamber work he lived to see published. The opening movement’s first theme has a rather foreboding, dark, and almost stormy emotional tone. The movement is indicative of Mendelssohn’s rich harmonic language, constantly shifting and unfolding in unexpected ways. The opening’s intensity is allayed by a delicate and tuneful second theme, and Mendelssohn readily shifts between the two themes masterfully and dramatically.
Simple, lyrical, and beautiful, the second movement serves as a much-needed respite from the wild harmonic explorations and dramatic outbursts of the first.
The Scherzo flashes in a characteristically Mendelssohnian style—swift, light, and nimble. A tour-de-force, it is equally challenging for each player. The intricate counterpoint and constant trading of lines among the trio members endow this movement with kinetic force.
The rollicking, fast final movement features three ideas in rondo form, and is laced with great lyrical beauty. Gravitas is also present due to Mendelssohn’s quotation of the chorale melody known as “Old Hundredth” because of its association with Psalm 100. (The Old Hundredth is commonly sung to the 1674 text, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow,” known as the Doxology). In some sense, the final movement is an amalgam of the kinds of writing exemplified in the first three. There are technical demands; very beautiful, singing moments; and not a small amount of the minor-mode angst of the work’s opening. Mendelssohn marshals these multiple elements elegantly. Near the end, the chorale tune returns, now in a triumphant C major, as if to dispel the storm of the beginning. [Adapted from Suter, A. https://www.redlandssymphony.com/pieces/piano-trio-no-2-in-c-minor-op-66, accessed October 26, 2017]
The Trio No. 2, dated November 1827, was one of the last compositions Schubert completed. It is among his few late works that he heard performed before his death. Robert Schumann described the work as “spirited, masculine, and dramatic.”
The first movement opens with an assertive gesture, which, although it gives way to gentler material, sets the tone for much of the movement. After a very traditional idea, Schubert moves to the extremely distant key of B minor for an impish second subject, defined by an incessant ostinato (continually repeated) rhythm. A third melody seems to appear in a new key, but is in fact an extension of a little pendant to the first theme. Still, this third subject rounds off the exposition and occupies the players throughout the entire development section.
According to one of Schubert’s friends, the second movement owes its songful melody to Schubert’s encounter with a Swedish folk singer shortly before, or during, the work’s composition. The movement opens with a funereal march-like theme and unfolds canonically; even when the exact imitation evaporates, the spirit of friendly emulation remains intact. The movement’s second theme is gentler, but reaches two intense climaxes before the first theme returns to end the movement with raw passion that seems unsure whether its final destination is transcendent or tragic. One of Schubert’s most gorgeous works, it has been featured on the soundtracks of several films.
The trio section is a robust country dance that includes a reference to a first-movement theme.
The finale is complex; the move from the bright opening theme to the more dark-spirited second subject occurs with little transition. After the second subject runs its course, we get something astonishing: a reprise of the melody from the second movement, doctored to suit the new tempo and context, and ushering in the development section. The movement ends with a brilliant short statement of its opening theme. [Adapted from Johnston, Blair: https://www.allmusic.com/composition/piano-trio-no-2-in-e-flat-major-d-929-op-100]