Phantasy Trio

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Programme Notes - Trio Pathetique, Glinka

Trio Pathetique in D minor Mikhail Glinka (1804 – 1857)

I Allegro moderato

II Scherzo: vivacissimo

III Largo

IV Allegro con spirit


Glinka, often thought of as the “Father of Russian Music” was a great inspiration to many Russian composers that followed him, such as Tchaikovsky, Borodin and Rimsky-Korsakov. Interestingly, although he learnt the piano from an early age, he did not start out life with aspirations to a career in music – he studied at the Higher Pedagogical Institute in Moscow and from 1824 worked as a secretary in the transport ministry until ill health inspired him to travel to Italy. In Italy he was thrilled to discover the music of Bellini and Donizetti, inspiring him to begin composing on themes from their music, until a musical home-sickness took hold and “gradually inspired in him the wish to compose in a Russian way”. This Trio, written in 1832 in Milan, was written before Glinka had actual taken any composition lessons, and as a result derives from his exemplary piano playing and his natural compositional skills. The autograph score reads:

“Trio Pathetique pour Pianoforte, Clarinette/Violine and Bassoon/Viola/Violoncello par M. J. Glinka, “Je n’ai connu l’amour que par les peines qu’il cause!”

It was premiered with Glinka at the piano, clarinetist Tassistro and bassoonist Cantú, but there are records of performances in all the possible combinations. Glinka was ailed with various illnesses throughout his life, this period being no different, and combined with a love affair at this time, this led to a composition which Cantú described as “a thing of desperation”. This perhaps explains the Pathetique nature of the trio, rich in romantic pathos, and the motto “All I know of love is the pain it causes!” which Glinka writes on the autograph.

The instrumental parts showcase Glinka’s lyrical bel canto qualities around which the technical virtuosity of the piano part is written. Russian folk melodies are apparent throughout, but they are expressed in a classical Viennese idiom. The opening Allegro moderato is classical in structure with some impassioned writing, in contrast to the sparkling Scherzo which follows. The centre of this Pathetiqúe can be found in the Largo with its extended melodies reaching far beyond the page, before breaking into a spirited finale rushing towards the end where a final sigh of relief is found.