Shostakovich, Schnittke: Piano Trios

Kempf Trio / Pierre Bensaid / Alexander Chaushian / Freddy Kempf

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Shostakovich, Schnittke: Piano Trios Review

by James Leonard

It was a great idea to program Shostakovich's two piano trios with Alfred Schnittke's arrangement of his String Trio for piano trio. The older composer's proto-expressionist single-movement early trio and his mature four-movement mature trio, together with the younger social realist's post-modernist two-movement trio offer a triptych of 20th century Soviet chamber music. Regrettably, the performances here by the Kempf Trio are not entirely convincing. When the music is demotic, as in Shostakovich's Second Trio's closing Allegretto, or demonic, as in both movements of Schnittke's trio, the Kempf players shine, because their brusque tone, muscular ensemble, and strong sense of rhythm admirably suit the music. But when required to do anything else, as in the quiet lyricism of Shostakovich's Second Trio's Largo, or the expressive portions of his First Trio, they can do no more than approximate what's called for in the scores, that is, they can play the notes but they miss the spirit. Recorded in impressively present super audio sound, this disc may please some of the people some of the time, but it is unlikely to please all the people all of the time.

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