Piano Trio No. 2: J'entends


Piano Trio No. 2: J'entends


for violin, cello, and piano (1987)

  • Premiere: 7 April 1987 / Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center, New York City  / The Lehner Trio
  • Instrumentation: vn.vc.pf
  • Duration: 20'
  • Dedication: For the Lehner Trio, 1986
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I. Rondo in moto perpetuo
II. Interior — after Degas
III. Minute scherzo
IV. Quodlibet

Program Note

Nadia Boulanger's last words are said to have been "J'entends une musique san commencement et sans fin." ("I hear a music without beginning or end.") In a 1987 program note for the premiere at Alice Tully Hall, the composer wrote, "Grand Line was my first meditation on this statement, and this trio is the second. In it, I am attempting to manipulate time the way that a visual artist manipulates space. Various musical ideas — each of which progresses at its own speed — are juxtaposed, overlapped as transparencies, and mixed as colours over a long, spun out melody which is to the piece what a canvas is to a painting."

The trio begins with a tutti statement of the work's main harmonic and melodic ideas. (This movement, while retaining its original identity as the opening rondo of the piano trio, also served as the 'short score' for the first movement of Hagen's Symphony No. 2.)

The second movement develops the first movement's ideas while overlaying a program of sorts — Hagen writes, "I was inspired by Degas' painting Interior — the Rape for the emotional ambience of this movement." Through-composed, the dialogue between "pure" music and "program music" mirrors the friction in Degas' painting between "decorative" and "narrative" elements.

The third movement, Minute Scherzo, is another of Hagen's sixty-second-long musical pallindromes, this time with a neurotic, peculiar, and somewhat hysterical quotation of Beethoven's Grosse Fuge at its center-point. The final movement, entitled Quodlibet (a theological or philosophical issue presented for formal argument or disputation or, in music, a medley) takes the material from the preceding movements and makes a collage of it while moving toward a broadly romantic statement of what Hagen describes as "the unabashed melody which has been present in various forms, and struggling to come forward, since the begining of the piece."


Winner, 1st Prize, the Barlow Endowment International Composition Prize for Chamber Music, 1985, J'entends was commissioned by the Lehner Trio and premiered by the ensemble at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center, New York City, on 7 April 1987.

(Banner photo: the Finisterra Trio)

The Finisterra Trio recorded Hagen's complete trios for Naxos.

The Finisterra Trio recorded Hagen's complete trios for Naxos.


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