Though the young nineteen year-old Shostakovich underwent some tough times in his youth, the dedication of his first Piano Trio to Tatiana I. Gliwenko betrays his lovelorn affection for a girl that was to keep him in her heart for all her days. He always considered himself the ugly ducking with her, especially with his scholarly yarn and overly-wrought spectacles. But she saw him as full of innate charm and innocence and stated that it was "impossible not to like him." The trio, though full of his doting and ambiguous Neapolitan sixths, ends up resolving into a glorious A-major, and the trio as a whole finds a place in the hearts of anyone who loves happy endings.
The second Trio is a little different; like so many others, this one also had its origins in the midst of profound tragedy. Shostakovich’s best friend and companion, Ivan Sollertinski, died prematurely at the age of 41, sending the composer into a fit of inconsolable grief. Six months after the death of his friend, he was finally able to complete the trio that had been begun on the very day of demise. The calm, banal, and deceptively controlled work in actually masks a very serious and even disturbing view of life. It pretends as a portrayal of the deceased, yet in reality expresses far more than that; the delirious dance and the end mocks death and then transforms into an almost psalm-like quietude.
Michael Obst (b. 1955) uses Shostakovich’s initials as the basis for this extended trio (d-es-c-h). It is preceded by a prologue and runs through eight sections interrupted by short interludes. The music is Shostakovich-like while also offering a unique voice, as a man attempting to be another composer but unable to shed his own identity. It is a fine tribute and a piece that deserves wider attention.
The Abegg Trio compared to a recently reviewed disc on Coviello Classics is much more astringent and ascetic in their approach. The sound cannot match that of the Trio-Miniaturen on Coviello because of the format, but this Tacet recording—and they are usually superb—comes across as an exceptionally clean and inspired reading. Easily recommended to those who need the coupling.