Originally composed for the clarinet, the composer later transcribed the piece for viola to take advantage of the instrument’s lower register.
With only two instruments, Martinu creates an incredible range of tonal color and mood. The second piece is incredibly tender, and the finale hides several musical jokes, including a reference to Beethoven’s “Pastoral” Symphony.
The slow middle movement gives this, one of the most famous of all piano trios, its nickname. The haunting melody is said to be inspired by the opening scene of Hamlet.