Shostakovich: Piano Quintet; Piano Trio No. 1; Five Pieces (arr. Atovmian)

COMPOSERS: Shostakovich
LABELS: Onyx
ALBUM TITLE: Shostakovich
WORKS: Piano Quintet; Piano Trio No. 1; Five Pieces (arr. Atovmian)
PERFORMER: Julian Rachlin, Janine Jansen (violin), Yuri Bashmet (viola), Mischa Maisky (cello), Itamar Golan (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: Onyx 4026
These live recordings from the Musikverein, Vienna, are part of a Shostakovich centenary series that was the brainchild of violinist Julian Rachlin. But only a few months ago I was reviewing another live recording of the Quintet that featured Mischa Maisky: that was with Martha Argerich and friends in the ‘Progetto Martha Argerich’ at the 2006 Lugano Festival – and, good though this performance is, that was better. Here, I felt I was listening to two completely different, intercut renderings, in which the scherzo and finale have plenty of fire and intensity, while the other movements have a rather deadpan and emotionally uncommitted air. The playing in itself is excellent, but there are much more revealing accounts of this masterpiece, starting with the new Argerich recording just mentioned, Leonskaya and the Borodin Quartet on Teldec, or the historic interpretations of Aller and the Hollywood Quartet in the 1950s (on Testament) and the composer’s 1949 version with the Beethoven Quartet, for whom he wrote the work in the first place (Doremi).The strength of the current disc may lie in its couplings, which make for a rounded and satisfyingly varied Shostakovich programme. The very early First Piano Trio is a more competitive prospect than the Quintet: even now there are not many rival recordings, and its acid combination of romantic sentiment and Prokofievan spikiness do not always cohere at the hands of players in other recordings. This is a spirited rendering, after which Rachlin is joined by second violinist Janine Jansen and pianist Itamar Golan in a highly enjoyable rendering of Lev Atovmian’s naughty salon-style arrangements of five pieces from Shostakovich’s ballets and film scores.

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