Shostakovich gem dazzles

The Florestan Trio deliver a meticulous yet expressive Shostakovich’s Piano Trios 1 and 2 and Seven Romances on Poems of Blok

Composer: Shostakovich
Repertoire:  Piano Trios 1 and 2; Seven Romances on Poems of Blok
Artists: Susan Gritton (sop), The Florestan Trio
Rating:  5/5
Genre: Chamber/Vocal
Label: Hyperion CDA 6783

The Music: Shostakovich’s Piano Trio No.1, composed when he was 16, sounds as if those chromatic freefall melodies and grotesque rhythmic caricatures typical of his mature work were already in play. The Second Piano Trio is contemporary with the wartime epic, public Symphony No.8, but is secret and allusive. Seven Romances is a late period song cycle where every gesture and line gets stripped to its melodic essence.

The Performance: Shostakovich recordings come and go, but this is a disc we’re going to be talking about for a long time. The Florestans make a watertight case that the piano Trio No.1 was alive already to the possibilities of abrupt jump-cuts between sincere lyricism and savage distortions, while the Second Piano Trio seems to hallucinate on its past lives with melodies traced around alienated cello harmonics, beautifully realised by Richard Lester, that scatter into a cartoon music-like scherzo. Susan Gritton finds there’s a humane core inside the unremittingly bleak, weeping Seven Romances.

The Verdict: Loads to admire here – an intriguing choice of repertoire is played with meticulous care for structural balance, the music’s expressive soul and its timbral suppleness. Who needs more Fifth Symphonies when gems like this are ripe for discovery?

Want More? The Florestan Trio have recently disbanded – recordings like their complete Brahms Trios (Hyperion CDA67251/2) suggest they’re going to be missed.