Dohnányi was blessed with the friendship and mentoring of Brahms, and that of Brahms’ best friend, the great violinist Joseph Joachim. He also played a great deal of chamber music while at the Conservatory, so it is no surprise that he was a master of the form. When Brahms played the young Dohnányi’s Quintet with some friends, the not-easily impressed old master declared, “I could not have written it better myself.” His early masterful string trio, Serenade, evokes the concept of a miniature: in form, themes, and melodies. Everything in the piece is ephemeral and leaves us wanting for more.
Beethoven arrived in Vienna desperately wanting to make a name for himself in the salons of the city’s music patrons. He composed an entire series of smaller works that were made to be performed in these private settings. His Serenade in D Major, Op. 25, for flute, violin, and viola is a prime example. Its light and airy style conjures up images of nature and the outdoors, where the piece was often played. The Serenade immediately gained popularity, thus achieving the young composer’s goal and assisting him economically as well.
In his last years, Schubert composed his two masterpieces, his Piano Trios. The first, his Piano Trio No. 1 in B Flat Major was described by fellow composer Robert Schumann as “passive, lyrical, and feminine… One glance at Schubert’s Trio, and the troubles of our human existence disappear and all the world is fresh and bright again.... Let the work, which he bequeathed to us, be a cherished inheritance. Time, though producing much that is beautiful, will not soon produce another Schubert!” It has upheld its status as a classic of the trio repertoire.