Question: What do the two pieces of music on this disc have in common? After all, they are by two completely different composers from two completely different centuries.
Answer: They're both great pieces of music given excellent performances in top-notch remastered 1960's sound from HDTT (High Definition Tape Transfers).
First up on the agenda is the Sonata in D minor for Cello for Piano, Op. 40, by Russian composer Dimitri Shostakovich (1906-1975). The sonata, written in 1934, was one of the composer's earlier pieces, making it just under the wire before the Soviet government imposed strict rules on the music its people could write. If parts of the sonata sound melancholy, it's probably because Shostakovich was going through some emotional tensions in his personal life. Whatever, in its four movements the sonata drifts from somewhat sad and despondent to energetic to somber to exuberant and joyful. It's quite a ride.
Russian cellist Daniil Shafran and pianist Lydia Pecherskaya handle the work nicely, negotiating the mood swings in smooth, orderly fashion. This should come as no surprise from the late Mr. Shafran; early on, critics regarded him and Mstislav Rostropovich, both close in age, as two of the great young cellists of the day. Shafran's enthusiastic yet poetically lyrical style suits Shostakovich's music flawlessly.
If there are any expressive nuances Shafran leaves out of the music, I don't know what they are. Shafran's part in the proceedings largely overshadows Ms. Pecherskaya's, but she accompanies him with a sympathetic air. There is a special exuberance about the second-movement Allegro, a wistful yearning in the Largo, and a playfulness in the finale that are hard to resist.
The Brahms is clearly more Romantic in tone than the Shostakovich, and Graffman and company have it well in hand. Although I've heard more-ebullient renditions of the piece, the present trio members offer a warm, satisfying reading, highly charged with musical subtlety.
RCA originally recorded the Shostakovich in 1961 and the Brahms in 1964. HDTT remastered and transferred the music from 15-ips 2-track tapes and released their coupling in 2015. The miking is a tad close, and the instrumentalists loom somewhat large; yet they sound so lifelike, one can hardly complain. There is a sweet warmth to the sound as well, so despite the proximity to the players, there is no trace of steeliness, brightness, or edge. Because of the miking, the instruments appear well separated, with plenty of space around each of them. It is smooth, clear, well judged, finely balanced sound that brings out the best in the performance. HDTT did an extremely good job processing the tape for a clean CD playback.
For further information on HDTT's various configurations, formats (CD, HQCD, FLAC, DSD, DVD-24, DVD-24, etc.), discs, downloads, and prices, you can visit their Web site at http://www.highdeftapetransfers.com.
To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click here: