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Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906–1975)
Piano Trio No.1, op.8 (1923) [12:46]
Seven Poems by Alexander Blok, op.127 (1967) [24:34]
Piano Trio No.2, op.67 (1943/1944) [27:04]
Young-Hee Kim (soprano)
L.O.M. Trio: (Joan Orpella (violin); José Mor (cello); Daniel Liorio (piano))
rec. 13, 15, 16 December 2006, 15 January 2007, l’Auditori Paper de Musica de Capellades. DDD
COLUMNA MÚSICA 1CM0180 [64:24]


Experience Classicsonline

These three works with piano trio make a most satisfactory coupling of music spanning Shostakovich’s career from 1923 to 1967. His development can easily be seen as the 1st Trio is overfull with ideas, the 2nd Trio more concise with strong ideas worked out in his most serious manner, then the Blok Songs, which are object lessons in economy.

The 1st Trio is a youthful work in one movement. It flits from one mood to another with the swiftness of a film cut - a most enjoyable concoction, full of good tunes, and well laid out for the three instruments. 

The 2nd Piano Trio comes from Shostakovich’s maturity, written during the Great Patriotic War, in memory of his friend Ivan Sollertinsky. It is the first of his Jewish works. A difficult work to bring off it covers a vast range of emotion. The first movement is relatively easy going, indeed, in some ways it exudes an air of untroubled innocence. The second is a manic scherzo and the slow, third, movement a sombre passacaglia. The finale was started just as news was announced of the liberation of the Nazi death camps, including Treblinka. Shostakovich was horrified that the SS Guards made their victims dance beside their own graves and created a programmatic image, the music becoming wilder and wilder. Ian MacDonald (The New Shostakovich, Fourth Estate, London, 1990) has pointed out that at the climax of this movement there is “… the impression of someone stumbling about in exhaustion …” which is “… painfully vivid”.

Shortly after his first heart attack, Shostakovich was commissioned to write a vocalise for Vishnevskaya. It was to be accompanied on the cello by her husband, Rostropovich. The composer quickly realized that this wasn’t what he had in mind, and with the addition of violin and piano created the Seven Poems by Alexander Blok. This takes the original idea of a duet and uses the three instruments, with voice, in every available combination. Alexander Aleksandrovich Blok (1880-1922) was one of the leading symbolist poets of the time.

I tend to shy away from any recording which includes a contemporary singer for the standard of singing these days is marred - perhaps ruined is a better word - by the accursed wobble. Lieder singers of the recent past never wobbled – used vibrato to be sure, because vibrato is an expressive device, to be used on special occasions. Wobble is when the singer is not in control of the voice and it is prevalent today. What is more important is that vibrato cannot be put on every note, wobble can. At least with vibrato the listener has a clear idea of what note the singer is singing! It must be that young singers are taught to wobble for whenever I hear students at the music colleges here in London, wobble is already in place. Hasn’t anybody ever heard Elsie Suddaby, Elizabeth Schumann, Lisa della Casa? - three of the purest voiced singers ever to open their mouths and sing a song.

I am afraid that Young-Hee Kim wobbles, though, it must be admitted, not as badly as so many these days. There are times when she actually employs a slight vibrato. But her wobble is an unpleasant sound, and wobbling always will be. This has bothered me for some time and it was the performance of Jeanne-Michèle Charbonnet in Foulds’s World Requiem which brought this problem to the fore. It’s time we returned to a purer style of singing, one which does a service to the composer.

The L.O.M. Trio (the name is made from the initials of the surnames of the members of the group) is a young ensemble with a promising future. The Trio plays the 1st Trio expertly, easily handling the many gear-changes Shostakovich demands of his players, but it is less successful in the later work. This 2nd Trio makes heavy demands on its performers from the greatest delicacy - as in the opening of the work with the harmonics for solo cello - to the danse macabre mentioned above. It is here that this performance falls down. In the 1947 recording made in Prague with David Oistrakh and Shostakovich joined by a young Czech cellist, the great Milos Sadlo, this finale borders on insanity. Shostakovich, I believe, refused to do retakes so the piano playing is full of fistfuls of wrong notes but what an awesome performance it is! As I have written of Shostakovich elsewhere, this is music which is on the very edge of madness, all caution thrown to the wind and that 1947 performance is positively diabolical. The L.O.M. Trio is accurate but oh so polite, almost apologetic. Where’s the urgency? The sense of danger? The passion? It is to be hoped that this Trio will come to see the truly passionate nature of this music and, one day, give of their all. But don’t wait until then, go for Shostakovich and colleagues in the Trio - truly one of the greatest performances of anything ever (Symposium SYMPCD 1314 – coupled with other first recordings of Shostakovich’s works) and Vishnevskaya, Oistrakh, Rostropovich and Weinberg (the première performers of the work) in the Blok Songs (EMI Classics 0724356282957).

Bob Briggs



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