Intimate and focused playing that enthrals from the start

Trio Wanderer: Shostakovich

Trio Wanderer: Shostakovich

The Strad Issue: December 2020

Description: Intimate and focused playing that enthrals from the start

Musicians: Trio Wanderer, Catherine Montier (violin) Christophe Gaugué (viola) Ekaterina Semenchuk (mezzo-soprano)

Works: Shostakovich: Piano Quintet in G minor op.57; Seven Romances on Poems by Alexander Blok op.127

Catalogue number: HARMONIA MUNDI HMM 902289

Trio Wanderer’s colleagues in Shostakovich’s Piano Quintet are regular collaborators and together they produce a model of good chamber-music playing that enthrals from the very start. An intimate, crystal-clear recording helps project the music honestly, without histrionics or over-sentimentalisation. The fugal second movement, for instance, finds the string players finely balanced as the voices weave in and out of the foreground, and the initial delicacy of the Intermezzo is poignantly drawn through just the right amount of tonal colouring. Meanwhile, the wry humour of the central Scherzo is perfectly caught, as is the blithe manner in which the piece as a whole bids a final farewell.

Shostakovich’s late cycle of songs to poems by the Russian Symbolist poet Alexander Blok is for singer and piano trio, or at least the members of a piano trio, since he employs different solo or combinations of accompanying instruments in each song, the four musicians only coming together for the final ‘Music’. Quite apart from the emotional impact of words and vocal line, superbly sung by Ekaterina Semenchuk, it’s a fascinating exercise in the use of different instrumental techniques and textures to illuminate the poems, and it’s difficult to imagine them more arrestingly done than here.