SHOSTAKOVICH Complete Chamber Music for Piano and Strings
Collating Shostakovich’s chamber works with piano has been done (surprisingly?) seldom, though the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio tackled most of this repertoire three decades ago for Arabesque. Those recordings – particularly the duo sonatas – were characterised by spacious tempos and a striving for profundity typical of the period when this music became synonymous with soul-searching and as a harbinger of the Soviet Union’s eventual demise.
Those who still favour such interpretation may well be nonplussed by what is on offer here. Formed in 2006, the DSCH – Shostakovich Ensemble comprises musicians of the younger generation who, in these works at least, favour a taut and objective though never casual or facile approach – witness the stealthy accruing of momentum in the Fugue of the Piano Quintet; the ardency of its Intermezzo duly carried over to the Second Piano Trio, whose propulsive Scherzo and elegiac Lento are rounded off by a finale which draws its Jewish inflections into a lithe yet cumulative entity the more affecting when shorn of affectation.
Turning to the duo works, Adrian Brendel has the measure of the Cello Sonata – whether the taciturn manner of its opening movement and rapt poise of its Largo or the effervescence of its Scherzo and finale. The Violin Sonata has long been considered among Shostakovich’s more intractable pieces but Corey Cerovsek brings out the bleakness of its opening Moderato and ensures the Scherzo’s rhetoric never becomes hectoring, before delineating the variations of the Passacaglia with a palpable sense of their formal and expressive unity. Isabel Charisius evinces comparable insight in the Viola Sonata (the composer’s swansong) as it unfolds from the speculative unease then sardonic humour of its initial two movements to a closing Largo which, whatever the nature of allusions real or imagined, conveys an undeniable benediction.
Here, as also in the impulsive early First Piano Trio and wistful elegance of the posthumously published Moderato, Filipe Pinto-Ribeiro contributes pianism as deft as it is perceptive. The sound is lean and keenly focused, in keeping with these performances, and there are extensive booklet notes. Anyone who is interested in current Shostakovich interpretation should certainly hear this set.