Shostakovich: Piano Quintet; Piano Trio No. 2; Four Waltzes for Flute, Clarinet & Piano

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COMPOSERS: Shostakovich
LABELS: Virgin
WORKS: Piano Quintet; Piano Trio No. 2; Four Waltzes for Flute, Clarinet & Piano
PERFORMER: Nash Ensemble
Chamber music played little part in Shostakovich’s pre-war output. All but two of the great series of 15 string quartets were written after 1945, and the Piano Quintet of 1940, an austere five-movement work based on Classical forms, was his first large-scale chamber composition. The Second Piano Trio followed in 1944, the same year as the Second String Quartet, and reflects both the composer’s grief at the death of his close friend Ivan Sollertinsky and the horrors of the time – the recent discovery of Nazi death camps at Majdanek, Sobibor and Treblinka. The quintet is less obviously programmatic, but the Nash Ensemble reach its heart in the second movement fugue, and pianist Ian Brown is fully aware of the work’s undertones of menace and foreboding. Their performance of the trio with its macabre finale, a dance of death based on a ‘Jewish’ theme, has a profound effect. The recordings are superbly realistic, the truthful balance between piano and strings highlighting the textural contrasts in the music. The Four Waltzes, adapted from Shostakovich’s film and ballet scores, make a delightful and imaginative filler. This is an unmissable issue. David Michaels