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Hyperion Records

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Gamayun, the prophetic bird (1897) by Viktor Vasnetsov (1848-1926)
Track(s) taken from CDA67834
Recording details: October 2010
Henry Wood Hall, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by David Hinitt
Release date: May 2011
Total duration: 11 minutes 31 seconds

'This isn't the first CD to group Shostakovich's two piano trios with his late Romances to poems by Alexander Blok but, for the freshness and excellence in every aspect of performance and production, it would be my pick' (Gramophone)

'One might be forgiven for wondering whether the market for this particular repertory has already reached saturation point. Fortunately such concerns are tempered when considering The Florestan Trio's hugely impressive track record and their unwavering capacity to shed new light on familiar repertory … the Florestans fully capture the youthful adour and impetuosity of the First Trio. They are in equally inspired form in the Seven Blok Romances providing mesmerising and powerfully etched accompaniments to Susan Gritton's achingly beautiful singing' (BBC Music Magazine)

'The Florestan Trio performs with terrific presence, precision, immediacy and palpable atmosphere. They delve beneath the surface to find and project the nuances of expression that lend these works their special flavour of soul searching. Even the First Trio—a work dedicated to one of Shostakovich’s loves, Tatyana Glivenko—seems to inhabit a world coloured more by nostalgia and anxiety than out-and-out ardour. In the Second Trio these feelings are intensified even further' (The Daily Telegraph)

'Usually heard in 19th-century repertoire, the Trio close their recording career with typical panache, playing chamber pieces by Shostakovich. Superb playing throughout; they will be missed' (The Times)

'The Florestans dig deep to reveal the secrets of this bleak and deeply moving music' (The Sunday Times)

'The Florestan Trio's new Hyperion recording of these works could not be bettered … Marwood's opening ghostly harmonics lure us into the Second Trio with promises of emotional intensity that do not let up until the final chord has had its say' (The New Zealand Herald)

'A recording to cherish then from a trio of musicians who, from one recording to the next have always played to the highest standards' (Classical Music Sentinel)

Piano Trio No 1 in C minor 'Poème', Op 8
1923; dedicated to Tatyana Glivenko; unpublished during Shostakovich's lifetime, eventually being reconstructed from various manuscript sources, with the missing final 22 bars of the piano part being supplied by Boris Tishchenko

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Shostakovich wrote his Piano Trio No 1 Op 8 (originally entitled ‘Poème’) in 1923, when he was sixteen, and had already spent three years as a student at the Conservatoire in Petrograd (as St Petersburg was then known). His father had died the previous year, lack of food and heat in post-revolutionary Russia was making life very difficult, and Shostakovich’s already frail health had deteriorated. He contracted tuberculosis of the lymph glands, and underwent an operation shortly before his piano graduation recital, at which he played Beethoven’s ‘Waldstein’ Sonata with his neck wrapped in bandages. He was then sent to a sanatorium in the Crimea to convalesce, and it was there that he wrote this Piano Trio. He dedicated it to Tatyana Glivenko, a girl with whom he had fallen in love while he was convalescing, and with whom he maintained a warm relationship for several years.

The following year, feeling oppressed by the somewhat rigid teaching regime at the Petrograd Conservatoire, he travelled to Moscow to apply to continue his studies at the Conservatoire there. On 8 April 1924 Shostakovich wrote to his mother describing the audition, at which he played some cello pieces and the Piano Trio to a panel including the composer Myaskovsky: ‘I played the cello pieces myself, and the Trio with the violinist Vlasov and the cellist Klevensky. They played appallingly … but the result was completely unexpected. I could never have imagined it. They decided to regard the Trio as my sonata-form piece, and immediately I was accepted on the free composition course.’

Shostakovich did not, in the end, move to Moscow, mainly because of his mother’s concern about his poor health, and he continued his studies at Petrograd. To supplement the family’s meagre income, Shostakovich had taken a job as a cinema pianist accompanying silent films. According to his sister, Zoya Dmitryevna, at the cinema Shostakovich and two friends rehearsed the Piano Trio for a performance, as accompaniment to the film that was playing that day. If this story is true, it is not surprising to hear that, as Zoya relates, the audience was not always tolerant of Shostakovich’s accompaniments: ‘There were often scandals, and the people whistled and booed.’ There is, however, something almost cinematic about this early Trio, with its sharp contrasts of pace and mood that can easily conjure up images like an Eisenstein film (though Eistenstein’s first masterpiece, Battleship Potemkin, did not appear until 1925). A love of striking and theatrical contrasts had been fundamental to Shostakovich’s musical character from an early age. The novelist Konstantin Fedin remembered hearing him as a young boy play to the family and their guests: ‘By some obscure law of contradictions the bony boy was transformed at the piano into a bold musician with a man’s strength in his fingers and an arresting rhythmic drive. He played his own compositions, which were full of the influences of the new music—unexpected works which forced one to listen as if one were in the theatre, where everything is so clear that one must either laugh or weep.’

The Trio is in a single movement, cast in a large-scale sonata form, with two contrasted themes, and a development section that rises to climaxes. But more striking than this formal procedure is the range of material that Shostakovich deploys, and the transformation that themes undergo. The opening theme, with its drooping semitones interspersed with yearning leaps, supplies the material for agitated passages, for a spiky, brooding version of the theme (one of the grotesque touches that seems most like the mature Shostakovich), and for a dramatic climax. This is followed by a dreamy second theme, which Shostakovich took from an incomplete piano sonata. Despite this origin, it seems somewhat related to the first theme: the drooping semitones have gone, but the yearning leaps remain. After the dramatic development, which breaks off suddenly, the themes recur in reverse order.

Already, this student work contains recognizable Shostakovich hallmarks: lyrical melodies coloured by acerbic harmonies, sudden contrasts of pace and energy, insistent rhythms, and spare textures giving way to unashamedly romantic passages and powerful climaxes. All of this we can hear as a preparation for his triumphant graduation composition two year later, the First Symphony. The Trio, however, was not published during Shostakovich’s lifetime, and the edition that appeared after his death was assembled from various autograph sources, none of them complete scores. The last twenty-two bars of the piano part were missing, and were supplied by Shostakovich’s pupil, Boris Tishchenko.

from notes by Robert Philip © 2011

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