Ravel • Shostakovich
The young Israeli Mondrian Trio have used their Borletti-Buitoni award wisely in recording these works. The opening movement of the Ravel starts out tentatively and continues in a state of apprehension, but the approach makes perfect sense once you hear their Shostakovich: restraint is rewarded in a performance that takes place on a vast, visionary scale.
One of Ravel’s perfect creations, the Trio opens with its curious 8/8 Modéré which the Mondrian play with a simplicity and languid elegance, aided by the transparent pianism of Ohad Ben-Ari. The two string players adopt a lean but gentle tone – brilliantly recorded – taking their time to begin and then to wind down the movement. Pantoum has vitality but is similarly spacious, every note in place. They bring restrained gentleness to a Passacaille which seems to hang in space, the violinist’s lines being the most potent. The Finale has grandeur but does not quite achieve the sense of driving freedom that they find in the Shostakovich Trio.
In this work they dare to go for broke, beginning the Andante with an icy, pristine cool and building it up with almost prosaic deliberation. It has been done with more fire, but fire is what we get in a Scherzo of extraordinary speed and force. The strings are transformed into hoarse barking, screaming voices over a manically chattering piano. The hysteria expressed here, and in an Allegretto of rasping menace, makes the numb slowness of the Largo all the more shattering. I have always loved this work, but these musicians reminded me what a big masterpiece it really is.