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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: January 2010
Henry Wood Hall, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Simon Eadon
Release date: May 2011
Total duration: 25 minutes 1 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 2 in E minor, Op 67
composer
December 1943 to spring 1944; dedicated to Ivan Sollertinsky

Andante  [7'19]
Largo  [4'53]
Allegretto  [9'45]

Other recordings available for download
St Petersburg Quartet, Igor Uryash (piano)
Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The Piano Trio No 2 Op 67 was finished in the spring of 1944, and grew out of both national and personal tragedy. After several years of brutal war Russia was in a state of exhaustion. The siege of Leningrad, in which over a million people had died, had come to an end in January. The German army was in retreat from Russia, and revelations of the horrors of the death camps and the fate of Jews were beginning to surface. It was just at this time that Shostakovich lost his closest friend, Ivan Sollertinsky, a fine writer on music, a brilliant linguist and witty public speaker. Shostakovich had first met him in 1927, and Sollertinsky had given a talk introducing a performance of Shostakovich’s Symphony No 8 only five days before his death from a heart attack in February 1944. Shostakovich wrote to Sollertinsky’s widow: ‘I cannot express in words all the grief I felt when I received the news of the death of Ivan Ivanovich. He was my closest friend. I owe all my education to him. It will be unbelievably hard for me to live without him.’ Shostakovich, who had been working on his second Piano Trio since December, decided to dedicate it to Sollertinsky, following in a tradition of elegiac Russian piano trios—Tchaikovsky had written his in memory of Nikolai Rubinstein, Rachmaninov had followed with a trio in memory of Tchaikovsky. But the music itself makes it clear that Shostakovich intended a memorial far beyond the individual human being who was his friend.

The first movement begins with an unearthly fragment of a fugue, the cello playing high, eerie harmonics, the muted violin entering below, the piano following with deep octaves. This is Shostakovich at his bleakest. A sudden increase in pace brings not relief, but a heightening of anxiety. The motif with which the work began is thrown from instrument to instrument, there are sudden climaxes, and the movement peters out uncertainly just as one expects some new development. The second movement is savagely ironic, taking the witty conventions of a scherzo and subjecting them to biting discords and obsessive repetition. In the middle of the movement, the violin flings fragments of a folk song high in the air, but the effect is desperate rather than joyful. The third movement is a passacaglia: the piano repeats a slow, stark sequence of chords six times. Above the chords the violin and then the cello enter, like figures in a ruin rescuing fragments of musical memories—unaccompanied Bach, perhaps. The music slowly builds to a climax, subsides to an inconclusive chord, and then launches straight into the finale. This brings together all the moods of the earlier movements—the bleakness of the opening, the bitter irony of the scherzo, the searching lament of the passacaglia. To these it adds a specifically Jewish element, for this is Klezmer, the wild music of Jewish celebration, here grotesquely metamorphosed into an image of sustained destructive power. At the final climax it breaks off, and a swirling pattern based on the passacaglia leads in a desperate reminiscence of the first movement, as if the terrible vision of the finale was foretold right at the beginning of the work. And at the end the chords of the passacaglia come together with the eerie harmonics from the very opening, leaving the bleak landscape as empty as when we entered it.

Whatever detailed programme or narrative Shostakovich may have had in his mind when writing the Trio is secondary to the direct impact of the music. In Testimony, the volume of memoirs assembled by Solomon Volkov, but now much disputed, Shostakovich is reported as saying: ‘I am horrified by people who think the commentaries to a symphony are more important than the symphony. What counts with them is a large number of brave words—and the music can be pathetic and woebegone. This is real perversion. I don’t need brave words on music and I don’t think anyone does. We need brave music.’ That sounds like Shostakovich.

from notes by Robert Philip © 2011


Other albums featuring this work
'Shostakovich: Quartet No. 1, Quintet & Trio No. 2' (CDA67158)
Shostakovich: Quartet No. 1, Quintet & Trio No. 2
MP3 £5.25FLAC £5.25ALAC £5.25Buy by post £5.25 CDA67158  Please, someone, buy me …  
'Shostakovich: The Complete String Quartets' (CDS44091/6)
Shostakovich: The Complete String Quartets
MP3 £30.00FLAC £30.00ALAC £30.00 CDS44091/6  6CDs Boxed set (at a special price) — Deleted  

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