SHOSTAKOVICH Piano Trio No. 1 in c. 5 Pieces for 2 Violins and Piano (arr. Lev Atovmian). Piano Quintet in g • Julian Rachlin (vn); Janine Jansen (vn); Yuri Bashmet (va); Mischa Maisky (vc); Itamar Golan (pn) • ONYX 4026 (55:14) Live: Vienna 12/2006
This disc is a real must. For the celebration of Shostakovich’s 100th anniversary, Julian Rachlin came up with a truly great idea; a series of seven concerts were to be organized in the golden hall of theRead more Vienna Musikverein. The hype around the Mozart year almost overshadowed the fact that 2006 was an equally important year for Russia’s great son, Shostakovich. In his foreword, Rachlin emphasizes that the soloists around him were not chosen because of their glorious careers, but for their common wish to make music together.
That’s why this release is a welcome newcomer. Not only is it exquisitely performed, but the choice of repertoire is exceptionally well chosen. We get the rhapsodic First Piano Trio, a really interesting work; and although it contains only few similarities with his later op. 67 Trio, it includes many aspects of Shostakovich’s later development as a composer.
Furthermore, Rachlin, Jansen, and Golan give us a ravishing performance of the Five Pieces for Two Violins and Piano. This music was actually picked up from several film and ballet scores, later transcribed by Shostakovich’s friend Lev Atovmian. Finally, we get the majestic Piano Quintet in G Minor, op. 57; he composed the work at the beginning of the German invasion in early 1940. It’s full of contrasting emotions, childish innocence, intensely dramatic lyricism, and diabolic dancing rhythms.
To my surprise, I really enjoyed this disc. All players are in wonderful form. When Julian Rachlin’s sound, both honey-sweet and powerful, is joined by Janine Jansen’s refinement and delicacy, a great duo is born. Yuri Bashmet may have a more modest role, but his performance contributes enormously to the unique concert this must have been. Mischa Maisky surprises most of all; this time, he’s a highly refined chamber musician doing nothing more than to serve the music (he supports and colors the harmony extremely well). Pianist Itamar Golan’s playing is diverse and his touch well balanced.
The engineers at Onyx have outdone themselves: the balance is perfect, the sound full-bodied and warm, thanks to the superb acoustic of the Vienna Musikverein.
This may well be the most passionate and fiery performance of the Quintet to be found. I personally feel that Richter’s legendary performance with the Borodin Quartet available on Melodya sounds a little more intimate, but this one comes close.
Discs like this have become rare; a great ensemble of individual stars that play as if their lives depend on it—with great sound and a unique coupling—is hard to beat.