For Piano Trio
(2002) 12 minutes
Commissioned by the London Mozart Trio and premiered at the Wigmore Hall on 26th June 2002.
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