Simon Trpčeski, Cristian Măcelaru & Janáček Philharmonic Ostrava - Shostakovich: Piano Concertos & Piano Trio No. 2 - Slipped Disc

One of the perils of the COVID period is the forgetfulness. We no longer remember the physical thrill of hearing a favourite work, and recordings sometimes fail to deliver that visceral satisfaction. Here’s an exception.

Shostakovich wrote his first concerto for himself to play and the second for his son, Maxim. The degree of difficulty is relative; neither was a virtuoso pianist. The writing is rich in orchestral texture and, in the first work, parts could almost be a trumpet concerto. The second piano trio, written in wartime, is a lament for the sufferings of Jewish citizens under Hitler and Stalin.

The musicians here are the Janacek Philharmonic Orchestra, based in the eastern Czech town of Ostrava, where Leos Janacek died, and exemplifying his tendency towards Russian music and literature. This inclination alone gives the recording a distinctive difference from the rest of the catalogue. The orchestra, its solo trumpet in particular, have that slightly unshaven asperity which adds menace to the music without in any way compromising pinpoint tonal accuracy. I’d really like to hear this ensemble in the flesh.

The soloist Simon Trpceski is Macedonian, tinged with melancholy and capable of the most breath-taking pianissimo. The conductor Cristian Macelaru is Romanian and rising. Warsaw Pact nostalgia aside, this is a recording that encapsulates the other, older side of Europe, a darkly embedded culture that is under present and immediate danger of erosion from mass migration and EU homogenisation. The piano trio placed between the two concertos is simply breath-taking. The label is Scottish and the studio sound spectacular. Do not hesitate.

Slipped Disc (Norman Lebrecht's Blog)
06 August 2021