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Shostakovich - Weinberg CD

Fanfare Magazine, Jan/Feb 2013

WEINBERG Piano Trio. SHOSTAKOVICH Piano Trio No. 1; No. 2 Trio Voce CON BRIO (73:45)

by Art Lange

Despite their stylistic and expressive differences—one a result of youthful ardor, the other a profound wartime lament and protest—it’s always a boon to have both of Shostakovich’s piano trios offered together on disc, especially when they are given such deeply committed and passionate performances as these by Trio Voce. My favorite versions have long been by the Kalichstein/Laredo/Robinson Trio (still available from ArkivMusic, Amazon.com, and no doubt other sources), who plays them with a marvelous balance between drama and lyricism. Trio Voce are nearly their equal; they bring a singing quality and suppleness to the sentimental melodic curves of the First Trio, and a sense of gravitas to the Second Trio. In those passages of the latter where the composer lightens the mood or introduces a dancing figure they may not offer quite the tongue-in-cheek lilt—and accompanying irony—that KLR does, but in the robust moments they really dig in, always allowing the contrapuntal lines equal prominence, and not submerging any of the more dissonant harmonies. This is impressive music-making, technically and interpretively.

But as good as the Shostakovich is, an even more urgent reason to hear this disc is for the piano trio by Mieczyslaw Weinberg (aka Vainberg). A close friend and frequent musical collaborator with Shostakovich, Weinberg is finally beginning to emerge from the older and obviously more famous composer’s shadow. Recordings like this one should help to bolster his reputation—the 1945 Piano Trio op. 24 is a powerful work of conflicting emotions and grand gestures, here given a fully persuasive, gripping performance. The opening Präludium und Arie begins with pounding piano and string chords that could be air raid sirens, gradually settling down into a serene, if edgy, aria, followed by a wild Toccata that features rapid, angular piano passages (suggesting Prokofiev) and biting strings, a Poem of elegant sadness that builds in intensity, and a Finale that alternates between jostling aggression and lyrical contemplation, ending with an effective, elegiac diminuendo.
Trio Voce is violinist Jasmine Lin, cellist Marina Hoover, and pianist Patricia Tao. More, please.


Gramophone Magazine, May 2011

Trios from two musical bedfellows beautifully captured in Chicago

by Laurence Vittes

The big winner here is Mieczyslaw Weinberg, whose wartime masterpiece, composed in 1943, has a more profound belief in the strength of structure and formality than Shostakovich’s Opus 67 which instead rails against the absurdity of structural formalism in tones of both outrageous self-parody and frightful intensity.

Born in Poland, Weinberg first fled to Minsk then to Tashkent. He moved to Moscow thanks to Shostakovich, to whom he had sent his first Symphony. They both were devoted to Bach and each became uniquely their master’s alter ego.

Weinberg’s Trio, beginning with a heraldic opening recalling Brahms in an unexpected way, is fractured by violent cataclysms that make survival a matter of will. The power of its lyric energy is surprisingly soft but monotone, like being ravished by Garbo’s Ninotchka. It is music of the night, hard fought, tonal in large part, vividly narrative and only occasionally lit up by flares. It is the music of a man above whose head flew the flag of Josef Stalin, not the National Endowment for the Arts.

The University of Alberta-based Trio Voce play every bar of the Weinberg for everything it’s worth, which sometimes means a sort of clunky methodical gait with lots of bow laid on the strings (great double-stops from violinist Jasmine Lin). They approach the Shostakovich Trios with equally straightforward, sturdy appetite and the result in Opus 67 is rich in rustic peasant gaits and attitude. Meanwhile, every chord and each slide and glissando is captured by Bill Maylone’s crack crew working at WFMT in Chicago.

These are compelling and characterful performances evincing immense concentration by Trio Voce. This excellent disc would prove an important addition to any serious collection of twentieth-century chamber music.

Michael Cookson, MusicWeb International

Quite a program, then, played with gusto and deep feeling by Trio Voce.

Lee Passerella, Audiophile Audition