Sonatensatz in B flat, D28 [+Schumann, Piano Trio in D minor, op. 63] (Trio di Trieste)
Professor Westrup's celebrated critique of Schubert's chamber music appeared in Dr Abraham's Symposium in 1946, shortly after hostilities had otherwise ceased. It makes short work of this short work. D28 suffers from “slavish imitation” and “lack of structural unity”. For those who think that Oxford rules apply more to compositors than composers, the music is its own proof and justification. Here it sounds thoughtful and charming if slender and tentative; just right for a 15-year-old.
Dr Abraham himself (in his Schumann Symposium of 1952) has examined op.63, and found that its first movement is “controlled” by a secret idea found in the sketches but never overtly stated in the finished work. All the trios sound thus to me; perhaps an intangible guide suits the medium. But this time I don't think that the audience will get the message. Here academic comment can teach a useful lesson. In Schumann of all composers we need more than just the notes; and sometimes we don't even hear those. Take for example the drooping 6th, F to A, which even in the Lebhaft is no doubt meant to have a dying fall-but it surely shouldn't collapse and expire altogether? (“That strain again” means the effort to hear F-A.) Some of the accents are also hard to follow, e.g. in the finale. In other music such details might be trivial; and there is no denying that these players have immense verve and skill, nor that their performance is wholly admirable in its forthright way-to which however one may prefer Schumann's.
The Musical Times, Jun., 1971 (p. 566) © the estate of eric sams