Shostakovich: Piano Trios Nos 1 & 2

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COMPOSERS: Shostakovich
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Piano Trio No. 1 in C minor, Op. 8 (Poème); Piano Trio No. 2 in E minor, Op. 67; Seven Romances on Poems of Alexander Blok, Op. 127
PERFORMER: Susan Gritton (soprano); Florestan Trio

With nine currently available recordings replicating the same programme as this new Hyperion release, not to mention many other highly regarded discs coupling both Shostakovich Piano Trios, one might be forgiven for wondering whether the market for this particular repertory has already reached saturation point. Fortunately such concerns are tempered when considering the Florestan Trio’s hugely impressive track record and their unwavering capacity to shed new light on familiar repertory. In this respect, perhaps the most striking aspect of their beautifully engineered performance of the Second Trio is the surprisingly fast speeds that they adopt for the outer movements and the Passacaglia. The ploy works particularly well in the opening Andante since it obviates the necessity for applying awkward changes of gear every time the emotional temperature of the music becomes more animated. 
Elsewhere this decision is perhaps less convincing. For example, though the Florestans bring admirable poise and nobility to the Passacaglia, their approach seems rather cool when compared with the heart-rending laments that characterise many Russian performances of this movement. Furthermore, the tempo for the grotesque Jewish dance in the Finale is a tad too hasty, thereby missing the draining wearisome character that is implied by Shostakovich’s Allegretto marking.
No such qualms affect the performances on the rest of the disc. The Florestans fully capture the youthful ardour and impetuosity of the First Trio. They are in equally inspired form in the Seven Blok Romances providing mesmerising and powerfully etched accompaniments to Susan Gritton’s achingly beautiful singing. Erik Levi