Shostakovich: Piano Trios Nos. 1 & 2; Cello Sonata

COMPOSERS: Shostakovich
ALBUM TITLE: Shostakovich
WORKS: Piano Trios Nos. 1 & 2; Cello Sonata
PERFORMER: Rachmaninov Trio
It’s surprising how often on CD the 17-year old Shostakovich’s fledgling trio hitches a lift on the back of its deservedly famous big brother from 1943. Curiously the early work receives the best performance from the Rachmaninov Trio, who glide smoothly from late Romantic keening to quirky dance-music without raising an eyebrow. One can’t help feeling their fluency is also welcome in unfreezing the opening gestures of the Second Piano Trio, but less good, perhaps, in building the menace that sweeps over the Jewish themes of the finale.


Although the Rachmaninovs then chant the slow fade to nothingness with a sensitivity that is nothing short of moving, you’d never guess that the emotional climax of the entire work rests with this development, as it so unmistakeably does with the considerably more hard-hitting, vocal trio of Rostislav Dubinsky, Valentin Berlinsky and Elisabeth Leonskaja (still the benchmark on Teldec). That said, partly to blame here is the soft focus of the Mosfilm Studio acoustics, blunting the edge of pianist Victor Yampolsky’s contribution. He and cellist Natalia Savinova are true partners in the Cello Sonata, well placed between the two trios and a rare specimen of Shostakovich’s brief flirtation with a new simplicity in the 1930s. Again, though, the players fail to spring the surprise changes of mood with ideal vividness, though the slow movement, like its counterpart in the Second Trio, is sincerely and movingly shaped. David Nice