LABELS: Challenge Classics
WORKS: Piano Quintet in G minor, Op. 57; Two Pieces for String Octet; Five Pieces for Two Violins & Piano; Adagio & Allegretto
PERFORMER: Christian Blackshaw (piano); Brodsky Quartet, etc
CATALOGUE NO: CC 72093
Finding a suitable coupling for Shostakovich’s Piano Quintet can be tricky. The Brodsky might seem to have found an inventive solution, framing it with relatively little-known chamber works by Shostakovich. The early Two Pieces for string octet pave the way excellently for the Quintet. The furious scherzo in particular finds a kind of youthful joie de vivre colliding with a very angry young man.
The Piano Quintet takes centre stage in a performance that lacks no commitment, but rarely threatens to imprint itself on the memory in the manner of Richter’s searing version with the Fitzwilliam Quartet. The resonant acoustic is not always helpful, with the piano sounding curiously detached at times from the rest of the ensemble, although there are relatively few passages where balance with the strings becomes problematic. With Richter’s and Shostakovich’s performances both currently out of the catalogue, competition is not especially strong. The Hollywood Quartet’s towering account with Victor Aller, another glorious disc in the treasure trove of Testament’s catalogue, would certainly not disappoint. Of more recent versions, the Nash Ensemble (Virgin) is reliable, while the pick is the Borodin Quartet with Elisabeth Leonskaja (Teldec) in a performance utilising understatement to more telling effect than the manufactured histrionics of many rivals.
The remaining works presented by the Brodsky are all thoroughly charming examples of Shostakovich in light-hearted mood, being arrangements of music from film, ballet and opera scores. While these may be genial works, they seem crass beyond compare when following the Quintet. Christopher Dingle