For Piano Trio
(2002) 12 minutes

Commissioned by the London Mozart Trio and premiered at the Wigmore Hall on 26th June 2002.

Programme note

The piano trio is based on Melancholy, a painting by Edvard Munch that formed part of his Frieze of Life. Munch described the Freize as a “poem of life, love and death”, and Melancholy, which depicts a man (sometimes thought to be the artist himself) looking out at the sea and oppressive sky, concludes the first of the three sections of paintings called “Love blossoms and dies”.

I found the piano trio extremely difficult to write: having just completed a chamber opera with all manner of instruments at my disposal, I really wanted to get “back to basics” in compositional terms, as it were. Even though I had been very pleased with the music that I had written for the opera, I had become slightly paranoid that the constant use of orchestral colours, complicated rhythms and textures (and of course the wonderful text by Pinter) was in some way a compensation for the slight lack of tight formal content.

In the piano trio I aimed at producing a much sparser music, (at many points simply a melody with choral accompaniment) in an attempt to prove to myself that I could still convey a great deal of emotion with only those notes that were absolutely necessary. This also reflected the feeling that the painting conveyed of being “trapped” in a mind of emotional concentric circle: a sense of constant torment without hope of more than a temporary resolution. The work takes the form of an (original) theme and three variations, in which the piano, ‘cello, and violin each have “their own” variation in turn.

I had at many points contemplated incorporating a very fast, manic movement, but decided against this, firstly because I wanted to put to rest another paranoia of mine, that a lack of many textural and temporal variants equalled a lack of interest, and secondly that, well, it just didn’t seem to fit in with the structure of the piece.

© Cheryl Frances-Hoad, 2002


"Frances-Hoad’s sumptuous harmonic language is powerful and expressive by equal measure, and her compositional language already, in 1999 when this was composed, shows maturity. The piece takes the form of a theme and three variations, and is based on a work by Edvard Munch." 

Carla Rees, MusicWeb International

"The World Premier performance of Cheryl Frances-Hoad's Melancholia Trio drew a remarkable intensity from the string writing, whilst the piano soured the mood with dissonances that protracted the dour imaginings of a work based on Melancholy from Edvard Munch's Frieze of Life. The London Mozart Trio's performance at the Wigmore Hall on 26 June proved a strong case for its inclusion in the canon of music for such ensembles. The intensity set out in Melancholia was a useful springboard into the serene opening of Shostakovich's Second Trio..."

David Alker, Musical Opinion


Buy The Glory Tree, Cheryl's CD featuring Melancholia

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