Shostakovich: Piano Trio No. 1; Piano Trio No. 2; Piano Trio No. 7; Romances on Poems of Alexander Blok

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COMPOSERS: Shostakovich
LABELS: Orfeo
WORKS: Piano Trio No. 1; Piano Trio No. 2; Piano Trio No. 7; Romances on Poems of Alexander Blok
PERFORMER: Alla Ablaberdyeva (soprano); Munich Piano Trio
CATALOGUE NO: C 465 991 A
Orfeo brings us an intriguing programme of Shostakovich early, middle and late, with what is perhaps the greatest in a long line of Russian piano trio-memorials (No. 2) flanked by youthful passion and a bitter nostalgia for happiness past from the composer’s declining years. There’s promising lyricism from violinist and cellist in the early Trio by the lovesick teenage composer, working hard to help the slightly contrived melodising (the white-note tune at the heart of the piece, presumably in imitation of Prokofiev’s diatonic strain, simply sounds like bad Glazunov). Yet barely a hint emerges of the suggested prestissimo fantastico towards the end. This is bad news for the more hair-raising grotesqueries of the mature Trio’s scherzo and the holocaust of its finale, and so it proves; though the occasional heave and groan is carefully etched, the overall impetus remains studied, never leaping off the page as it does with Leonskaja and the Borodins or – rather more eccentrically, but with much more personality – on the Kagan/Gutman/Richter performance captured in concert on Live Classics’s Oleg Kagan Edition.

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The Blok Suite offers seemingly irreconcilable demands for the soprano: tenderest half-lights offset by the harshest ranting in middle to upper register for ‘Gamayun the Prophet Bird’ and ‘Storm’. As Alla Ablaberdyeva struggles with the latter, the voice of the dedicatee, Galina Vishnevskaya, hovers in the mind – hers is, so far, the only viable interpretation of the entire cycle. Still, there is much affecting duet-work between singer and solo strings, and atmosphere is more successfully sustained than in the trios. David Nice