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Recordings of the Month


From Ocean’s Floor


Conner Riddle Songs

Rodzinski Sibelius

Of Innocence and Experience


Symphonies 1, 2, 3


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Pēteris VASKS (b. 1946)
Episodi e Canto perpetuo (Hommage à Olivier Messiaen) (1985) [29:07]
Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
Piano Trio, Op. 8 in C minor (1923) [13:15]
Piano Trio, Op. 67 in E minor (1944) [25:45]
Boulanger Trio (Karla Haltenwanger (piano); Birgit Erz (violin); Ilona Kindt (cello))
rec. 22-25 November 2010, Kleiner Sendesaal des RBB, Berlin, Germany

Experience Classicsonline

I like the way that the Boulanger Trio arrange their CD programmes positioning the familiar alongside more challenging works often by contemporary composers. Their previous CDs placed Robert and Clara Schumann with Rihm, and Liszt and Brahms with Schoenberg. This fascinating new release programmes Shostakovich with the music of contemporary Latvian composer Pēteris Vasks. 

Vasks is a composer who receives a fair amount of attention and I have seen his works programmed from time to time in European programmes. Composed in 1985 his Episodi e Canto perpetuo subtitle Hommage à Olivier Messiaen could be described as a musical representation of the composer’s tough emotional journey. Cast in eight movements the epithet Hommage à Olivier Messiaen refers mainly to Vask’s admiration of the French composer, however, there are a handful of stylistic similarities to Messiaen’s writing such as the layout of the score and the inspiration of nature. In truth I couldn’t really detect the spiritual dimension to the writing that Vasks has alluded to. Nevertheless this is raw-boned, intriguing music of an uneasy lyricism with a stark beauty. Vasks does employ a number of unusual technical effects notably in movement six Burlesca II but not enough to prevent anyone taking the score seriously. Throughout the Boulanger Trio play with a palpable sense of conviction right from the spare, cool chords of the percussive piano in the opening movement Crescendo to the plush late-Romanticism of movement seven Canto perpetuo.
Shostakovich was a mere seventeen year old student when he started composing his Piano Trio No. 1 in C minor, Op. 8. It was conceived during his convalescence for tuberculosis in the Crimea writing the majority of it at Petrograd in 1923. Some twenty or so bars of the piano part were missing and it was Boris Tishchenko, a student of Shostakovich, who completed the score. Cast in a single movement the first Piano Trio a hidden gem of the repertoire is dedicated to a sweetheart Tatyana Glivenko. I was struck by the way the Boulanger glide seamlessly through the rapidly shifting drama of contrasting textures and broad dynamics. Shostakovich’s writing takes the listener on an eventful journey through the grave seriousness of mourning to the light-hearted gaiety of a fun fair, and from the intense fury of a violent brawl to the moving tenderness of a passionate love affair. Perhaps the best known versions of the Piano Trio No. 1 are those from the Stockholm Arts Trio on Naxos and the Beaux Arts Trio on Warner Classics; recordings that I know but are not part of my collection. Since its release I have admired the live account played by Julian Rachlin (violin); Mischa Maisky (cello) and Itamar Golan (piano). The starry trio recorded the score in 2006 at the Musikverein, Vienna on Onyx 4026.

The Piano Trio No. 2 in E minor,Op. 67 has become recognised as one of the masterpieces of the chamber music repertoire. Written in 1944 in the midst of the war years Shostakovich was tormented by the effects of the carnage. Several of his friends had been killed and the score was dedicated to his friend Ivan Sollertinsky who died in 1944. The Boulanger Trio certainly has the measure of Shostakovich’s mainly dark and sombre score. Poignancy thickly cloaks the writing of the opening movement with its central dance-like section of a rather macabre character. The Scherzo blazes throughout with wild, near-maniacal revelry. Mournful and affecting the Largo contains the effect of a persistent tolling death bell on the piano. With writing of biting wit the substantial final movement Allegretto propels forward with terse rather exaggerated dance rhythms that could easily represent a dance of death. Of the alternative recordings of the Piano Trio No. 2 I am highly satisfied with what has become a treasured account by Borodin Quartet members: Mikhail Kopelman (violin) and Valentin Berlinsky (cello) joined by pianist Elisabeth Leonskaja. Playing with high vitality and an abundance of integrity the trio was recorded in 1995 at the Teldec Studio, Berlin on Teldec Ultima 8573-87820-2. 

A model of excellence the Profil Hänssler programme notes are an interesting and informative read. From the Kleiner Sendesaal des RBB, Berlin the Boulanger Trio has the benefit of clear and immediate, well balanced sound. With these Vasks and Shostakovich scores the talented Boulanger Trio play their hearts out taking the listener on an emotional musical journey. I consider these accounts from the Boulanger Trio to be up there with the finest alternatives on the market.
Michael Cookson 



























































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