Russian piano trios

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COMPOSERS: Arensky,Rachmaninov,Shostakovich and Musorgsky
LABELS: Nimbus Records
ALBUM TITLE: Russian piano trios
WORKS: Trios by Rachmaninov, Arensky, Shostakovich and Musorgsky
PERFORMER: Trio Shaham Erez Wallfisch
CATALOGUE NO: NI 5917

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The deeper the music, the finer the vividly-recorded performance from these distinguished players (who definitely need a catchier collective name). It took me time to acclimatise especially to violinist Hagai Shaham’s tone, not conventionally luscious, in Rachmaninov’s early Trio elegiaque – though pianist Arnon Erez immediately makes it clear that the first melody is worthy of the young composer’s idol Tchaikovsky (whose Manfred Symphony he quotes halfway through). The string players could make more of the Romantic hairpins in Arensky’s first movement, too, though as soon as the pianist introduces a lighter idea in the development, the smiles are palpable, and the Allegro molto is full of Fauré-esque delight. There’s lovely introspection in the bittersweet Elegia, too. The performance holds up to recent competition from the Trio Wanderer (Harmonia Mundi) and the Leonore Trio (Hyperion) – little wonder if a surprising number of interpreters have laid claim to this relative rarity of late.

From the ghostly opening lament on cello harmonics through to what can only be called a holocaust in the last movement, the players have a firm but never under-emotional grip on Shostakovich’s Second Piano Trio. The uninhibitedly brilliant approach to the Allegro con brio reminds us that Shostakovich can have fun and indulge his players even when there’s an edge to the entertainment. And how could one not be reminded, in the Jewish klezmer imitations of the finale, that Wallfisch’s mother, born Anita Lasker, has given him, and us, a direct line to the horrors she endured in Auschwitz and Belsen in her superb book Inherit the Truth?

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David Nice