Rachmaninoff loved the cello, as is testified by his Sonata in G minor, written for his friend Anatoli Brandoukov. Two passionate movements frame a slightly whimsical Allegro Scherzando with Schumannesque accents, and a luminous Andante, the Sonata’s only calming movement. Rachmaninoff was not yet twenty years old when he composed his Trio No. 1, a short work whose emotional intensity is on a par with the great works of his maturity. The highly nostalgic theme, stated first by the piano and then by the strings, returns many times, until its final appearance at the end, now slower and muted, as though returning to silence.
Brahms’ Quartet for Piano and Strings No. 2 is equally an early work. It opens with a tender and breathless Allegro non troppo. This is followed by an Adagio that could be described as a grand nocturne. The next two movements vary in mood between bursts of gaiety and energy, and meditative episodes such as those that appear as detours over the Finale’s galloping race.