The Horn Trio was written between March 1987 and April 1989. It is in two movements. The first and longer of the two follows a formal procedure which I first used in my Trio for Flute, Viola and Piano of 1961, then in both my Second and Third Quartets (1970 and 1978) and in parts of my Chamber Concerto (1973). This consists of the presentation of contrasting blocs, which usually appear first in their shortest; simplest form; are then juxtaposed with each other, and expand and develop largely independently of each other.
Here the two initial blocs are: a vigorous one for all three instruments, with a fanfare-like figure on the horn, which recurs throughout: a lyrical one – a sustained tune in the violin’s high register, with bass notes on the piano. The third bloc is a contrapuntal one, with the first appearance of a ‘tapping’ motif: the fourth a chordal piano solo. There is also a recurring duet for violin and horn.
From then on all these short sections expand and develop. For instance, the violin’s lyrical tune comes back at more length on the horn, the piano chordal section is heard on the two other instruments. After a climax to a greatly extended version of the ‘tapping motif’, there is a prolonged lyrical section, providing a slow movement character. This is followed by an agitato development of fantastic and spectral character. A full-blooded return of the lyrical themes from the ‘slow movement’ leads into a final section. This is an apotheosis of the initial piano chordal theme, with the first lyrical theme set against it: there are various other reminisces in the last few bars.
The last movement presents three fugatos, preceded by a fanfare-like introduction and interspersed with rhythmic, non-contrapuntal episodes. The first fugato is led off by the horn; the second by the violin; the third by the piano. There is more prolonged return to the material of the introduction before the first theme of the opening movement appears in long notes on the horn in the closing pages.
The work is dedicated to Ingrid Lunt, in return for many kindness’, and because she suggested that I write it.