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Three pianos? Think again: piano trio!

This hour, you'll discover that a piano trio is not three pianos - with proof provided in a performance of Franz Schubert's E-flat major piano trio.

Listen to audio 54:59

Concert Hour: Piano trio

The central piece this hour could be called the ultimate piano trio - which is a genre for piano, violin and cello. 

Its composer generates warm feelings in cellist Andreas Brantelid. "It's very human music, and despite the doubts and dualities in it,  I always feel that it's ok to play it," Brantelid told DW. "It's not just happy or sad music. It's very sophisticated. But when you play music by Schubert, you feel like he's your friend."

Brantelid also admires the intuitive quality of Schubert's music. "When Schubert starts a piece, you don't know whether it's going to be five or 40 minutes, and I don't think that he even knew it himself sometimes. He would just go on and on. The movement of the trio we play, for example, was initially so long that the publisher told Schubert to please cut it down. And he did."

Cellist Andreas Brantelid (Imago/mm images/Perc)

Danish cellist Andreas Brantelid

Yet it is possible to sit through a performance of a very long Schubert work and wish that it could go on forever, which raises questions about that original version. 

Part of the magic of this composer are the abrupt twists and turns in his music. Pianist Shai Wosner explained that with Schubert, one might feel in safe territory - but then, watch out!

"Moments of explosion catch us by surprise. After you're in some sort of groove, and everything seems fine, comes this moment of shock," said Wosner. "Then he goes back as if nothing has happened. These moments tend to be localized, and they disappear as quickly as they appear. It gives you an unsettling feeling - that you never know what's going to happen." 

Lovely melodies, a full scale of emotions and many cliffhangers characterize Schubert's Piano Trio No. 2 in E-flat. It dates from 1827, the year before he died at age 31. Some have heard the wisdom of age in this late work by a man who died so young and even have speculated that Schubert suspected he didn't have much longer to live.

Shai Wosner disputes that theory: "I don't think Schubert necessarily thought he was dying, because he'd started taking counterpoint lessons two weeks before he died," said Wosner. "Not to say that the music doesn't talk about life and death. Nobody deals with those themes more than Schubert." 

Added Andreas Brantelid in explanation: "The average age in Vienna at that time was shockingly low, so it was completely normal for people then to think about death at an early age if they wanted to find any meaning in life." 

Veronika Eberle (ZDF)

German violinist Veronika Eberle

Arnold Schönberg
Six little piano pieces, op. 19
Siegfried Mauser, piano 
Recorded by Deutschlandfunk Cologne (DLF) in the Beethoven Hall, Bonn on September 18, 2016
Franz Schubert
Piano Trio No. 2 in E-flat Major, op. 100
Veronika Eberle, violin
Andreas Brantelid, cello
Shai Wosner, piano 

Recorded by Deutschlandfunk Cologne (DLF) in the Beethoven House, Bonn on September 23, 2016.

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