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These three “essays” for piano trio have become classics of new chamber music since their premiere in the early 1980s. Rihm is fully aware of the “strangeness” or “foreignness” of his chamber-music “scenes,” in particular that of the second Trio, which bears the title Charakterstück [“character piece”], reminding listeners of Schumann. The composer warns: “The foreign tongue speaks its very own language, no note is quoted – [the music] falls, plunges into the notes.”
The history of the genre already seems to be apparent in the first Trio behind a veil, typical of Rihm’s gestures – impulsiveness, characteristically obsessive repetitions and pensive, meditative moments. The “character piece” is replete with surprises; the composer is inviting listeners on a surreal journey.
The beginning of the third Trio is fragmentary, languorous, with silences between the fragments; tradition seems to have receded into the background. But it returns after about three minutes, with gestures and paraphrases perhaps more reminiscent of Beethoven and Brahms than Schumann. In the course of the work the music shifts about oddly as Rihm seems to be playing with tradition, steering the music into pathways which surprise and fascinate the listener.