Piano Trio No.2 in E minor Op.67

Composer: Dmitri Shostakovich (b. 1906 - d. 1975)
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Composer: Dmitri Shostakovich (b. 1906 - d. 1975)

Performance date: 07/07/2012

Venue: St. Brendan’s Church

Composition Year: 1944

Duration: 00:26:29

Recording Engineer: Anton Timoney, RTÉ lyric fm

Instrumentation: vn, vc, pf

Instrumentation Category:Piano trio

Artists: Westland Piano Trio (Róisín Walters [violin], Paul Grennan [cello], Fiachra Garvey [piano]) - [piano trio]

During the siege of Leningrad by the Nazis, a young Jewish pupil
of Shostakovich’s, Benjamin Fleyshman, was killed in action and Shostakovich
began a piano trio in his memory. The next year Shostakovich’s closest friend
Ivan Sollertinsky died of a heart attack. It
will be unimaginably difficult to go on living without him; 
wrote the composer. Reading
Shostakovich’s story you feel that Sollertinsky was not only a true friend, who
could be relied on at all times, but was also one of the few able to
communicate with him as an equal.

There is a
tradition of Russian composers writing Trios as memorials, Tchaikovsky for
Rubinstein, Rachmaninov for Tchaikovsky, Arensky for Davidov, so Shostakovich
wrote his for Sollertinsky. But although he dedicated it to his greatest friend
it was the same Trio that he had begun in memory of his pupil Fleyshman, and
through him the whole Jewish race represented by the Jewish folk tune quoted in
the last movement. This makes it the first of his borrowings from Jewish music
from this Finale to the Finale of the Fourth Quartet to the Allegro molto of
the Eighth Quartet to the song cycle From Jewish Folk Poetry toBabi Yar in the 13th Symphony.

The eerie
introduction with the solo cello in harmonics creates an otherworldly sound to
which violin and then piano add their muted voices. This is progressively
animated by numerous ostinato and marcellatoeffects as well as a
second theme of bizarrely inappropriate cheerfulness. The Scherzo is like a
whirlwind with its wild energy and haunting lilting Allegro, said by many
perfectly to mirror the quicksilver intelligence of Sollertinsky There is a
brief Trio hidden at the heart of the movement.

The
Largo is both its own passionate elegy and an introduction to the unrestrained
horror of the Finale. It is cast in the familiar Shostakovich form of the
Passacaglia with five variations of painful beauty unfolding over the funereal
tread of the piano. The Finale opens with repeated notes on the piano and a
subdued pizzicato violin. The tension is then increased so that the piano can
start the Yiddish folk tune accompanied by pizzicato chords on the strings as
in klezmer music. A new theme is added to this increasingly macabre dance and
the tension is screwed tighter and tighter until a climax of total despair is
reached with the music spiralling round and round going nowhere. This is music
in the same ferocious spirit as the similar movement in the Fourth Quartet,
such a clear-sighted indictment of state terror that they were both banned for
years. Then the dance starts again with renewed horror but soon collapses,
until eventually the Passacaglia reminds us of who had died and why.