HAYDN: Piano Trio in E Major, Hob. XV: 28; TURINA: Circulo: Fantasy for Piano, Violin, and Cello, Op. 91; SHOSTAKOVICH: Piano Trio No. 2 in E Minor, Op. 67 – Icicle Piano Trio – Con Brio Recordings CBR21048 [Distr. by Albany], 52:49 ****:
This is the kind of program you would often hear in concert but all too rarely on disc, producers probably supposing that it lacks programmatic integrity. Then again, a program like this makes for maximum variety and allows an ensemble to demonstrate the breadth of its interpretive skills. You won’t hear any objections from me. I was glad for the opportunity to get acquainted again with Joaquin Turina’s unusual trio and hear it as well in an unusual context. The upshot is I was able to listen to all three of these works with fresh ears.
Haydn’s Trio in E Major (No. 26) was written for his London friend, the concert pianist Thérèse Jansen. Given the skill level of the dedicatee, Haydn felt no need to scale back the piano part, which is fairly brilliant by the standards of the day. The trio’s most famous movement is the second; like the corresponding movement in Beethoven’s Ghost Trio, it has the air of a spooky, nocturnal processional. Supposedly it’s Haydn’s reaction to the Gothic novel, which made English writers such as Horace Walpole and Ann Radcliffe bestsellers in the late 1700s. The outer movements are typically spirited and extrovert. The Icicle Trio catches this spirit well, though I wish their performance would smile a bit more.
Quite a shift of gears to Turina’s 1936 fantasy Circulo, so called because of its cyclic structure in which the quiet opening gestures return at the end of the piece. Circulo portrays the round of a day in Spain, from hazy morning through exuberant midday to the gradual unwinding at evening. It’s lush, sultry, and vividly Impressionistic, something completely different after Haydn’s spare, piano-dominated writing for the same ensemble.
A different culture yet again and a very different world view inform Shostakovich’s Second Piano Trio of 1944. Written at the height of the Great Patriotic War, it also reflects the sorrow Shostakovich felt over the sudden loss of his close friend, the musician Ivan Sollertinsky. The quirky Jewish dances in the fourth movement of the Second Trio may have been suggested by his acquaintance with Shostakovich’s recent introduction to the music of his admirer, Miecyslaw Weinberg. It also suggests Shostakovich’s solidarity with the Jewish victims of Nazism and may be a coded tribute to Sollertinsky as well; he was reportedly Jewish and in any event cultivated an interest in the music of Jewish composers living in the West. With its tragic overtones leavened, if that’s the right word, by the sardonic wit of its awkwardly dancing fourth movement, the Second Trio is echt Shostakovich.
All of these works are widely available on disc, of course, but as I suggest, their inclusion on a single bill of fare is an inspired bit of programming. Fortunately, the Icicle Trio brings it off with aplomb. The members of the trio (Jennifer Crane, violin; Sally Singer, cello; and Oksana Ezhokina, piano) each have advanced degrees in performance and widely concertize individually. As a collaborative, they have a strong profile, playing with unanimity and focus, as well as beauty and grace. They’re accorded a rich, full recording as well. Admittedly, there are other performances of the Haydn that I enjoy more, but otherwise I have no hesitation in recommending this disc to lovers of any (or all) of our three composers and of chamber music in general.
— Lee Passarella
Another historic recording from Pristine