Messiaen/Shostakovich

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COMPOSERS: Messiaen/Shostakovich
LABELS: Decca
WORKS: Quatuor pour le fin du temps; Piano Trio No. 2
PERFORMER: Olli Mustonen (piano), Joshua Bell (violin), Steven Isserlis (cello), Michael Collins (clarinet)
CATALOGUE NO: 452 899-2
Two of the greatest chamber works of the 20th century performed by four of the most acclaimed musicians of recent years. An enticing prospect. A woefully disappointing result. The only perceivable achievement in these performances is the elimination of any sense of emotion from two highly passionate pieces, creating the aural equivalent of watching paint dry. Appassionato markings in the Shostakovich Trio pass by without the slightest hint that the performers might break out into a sweat. As the composer cranks up the rhythmic momentum of the second and fourth movements, the tension, incredibly, is allowed to dissipate. However, the most heinous crime is the rigidity of tempo applied almost throughout. While this is detrimental to the Shostakovich, it is utterly disastrous in the Messiaen. This music is not and should not be mechanical. In these hands it sounds as if it is played by robots. No space is given for the music to breathe, with the result that the performance is starved of musicality. To cite specific instances of this would involve the entire recording. Christopher Dingle

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