Piano Trio is a work in three movements. Each has its own distinct
shape, materials, and atmosphere, yet various motives, as well as textural
ideas, create interlocking relationships between the first and last movements.
The entire work lasts approximately thirty minutes, and was commissioned by
Philip Vance in memory of his wife, Jeannette Mahoney Vance.
The first movement is a set of variations with a contrasting section.
Starting rather tamely, the movement quickly turns more angular and
rambunctious, yet always retaining a sense of playfulness. The two string
instruments often work in tandem, either creating a single line between the two
of them, or playing in similar rhythms. The rhythms are generally highly
syncopated, dynamics change abruptly, and the sound is dry and clean.
The second movement is the heart of the work. In time-honored tradition, it
takes the letters of Jeannette's name, and creates a melody based on them. There
are also allusions to folk songs, without any single tune ever quite becoming
clear. There are also allusions to birdsongs (Jeannette was enamored of birds
and nature) and older music. Also heard is a gentle melody over sliding chords,
that has no final destination, but rather has a feeling of hovering. A catharsis
does occur, but it is quickly folded back into the relative calm of gentle
undulating stasis. The movement ends with a chorale and a brief coda, with the
latter overlaying fragments of the movement with bell-like attacks in the piano,
all receding in the distance.
The third movement is marked "Allegro energico", and is appropriately
quick-paced and light of texture. Like the first movement it is a set of
variations with alternating sections, in this case of dance-like material, heard
in the violin and cello, with piquant punctuation provided by the piano, and
short lyrical sections with the violin and cello singing away. A brief coda
brings the work to a quiet and delicate close.