Jean Sibelius – Piano Trios – Hafträsk and Korpo
In 2015 we worked on a big Sibelius project by performing all the unpublished piano trios by Sibelius in several concerts in both Finland and Sweden. The heirs of Sibelius kindly gave us permission to perform and record these trios. After many of those concerts people came to ask us if we had recorded these trios and could they have a cd to take home. This enthusiasm from the audience gave us the impetus to make this cd with two of the unpublished trios by Sibelius: Hafträsk and Korppoo. We first asked for the original manuscript from the National library and found out the original markings and dynamics by the composer himself. This was a very interesting and important part of the process when we started to play these trios together.
On this cd we use the edition that Pauliina Pekki has made from the Hafträsk trio. Researching the original manuscript in 2012 Pekki noticed that the page numbering was most likely wrong. She realized when moving from page 6 to page 17 that there were two different versions of the first movement, earlier and later. We play on this cd the later version, which is nowadays commonly used.
When Sibelius was writing these piano trios, he had not actually yet been officially studying composing. From time to time there is a certain ”practising aspect” audible in these pieces. Sibelius found his own characteristic style to compose only years later. Despite of this, we found it interesting and important to document ”the first steps” of a great world-known composer.
As a young adult Jean Sibelius spent his summers in 1886 and 1887 with his family in Korppoo. A typical way to spend time with the siblings was to play trios together. Janne played the violin, his sister Linda played the piano and his brother Christian the cello. Hafträsk trio JS207 was created at this time. It is originally dated 8.7.1886 and composed for the family trio. The manuscript is challenging to read for a musician, only the cello part is written clearly. Apparently Christian Sibelius re-wrote this part for himself into a more readable form.
In the first movement there is a combination of rhythmical Beethoven-like atmosphere and romantic subsidiary theme. The barcarola-style second movement in E-major might have got some inspiration from French opera arias. In the Scherzo- movement and the last Rondo-part Sibelius is using a lot of counter trochee that has a hint of Slavism. Apparently he was very fond of this rhythmical pattern. The last movement ends surprisingly in pianissimo.
By the following summer in 1887 the pianist in the Sibelius trio had changed from Janne´s sister Linda to Lady Ina Wilenius, a skilled pianist who lived in the nearby Korpo Manor. She had a large collection of music and we assume that their holiday musical repertoire included also trios by Beethoven. During this summer Sibelius composed the big Korppoo-trio JS209, that has clearly been affected by Beethoven´s -trios. Its rhythmical main theme has the same style as in Beethoven´s -music, and also the dialogue between the motives and instruments as well as the dotted rhythmical motives refer to Beethoven. The second movement Fantasia. Andantino is the core of this piece with its changing tempos and characters. The last movement, Finale Vivace, is a brisk rondo. The main theme in this movement reminds us of the ”gypsy”-style Finales by Haydn.