Shostakovich: Sonata in D minor for Cello and Piano (CD review)

Also, Brahms: Trio for Piano and Strings, No. 2. Daniil Shafran, cello, and Lydia Pecherskaya, piano; Gary Graffman, piano, Berl Senofsky, violin, and Shirley Trepel, cello. HDTT HDCD184.

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.

Daniil Shafran
The coupling is the Trio for Piano and Strings No. 2 in C major, Op. 87, by German composer and pianist Johannes Brahms (1833-1897). Composed around 1882, the four-movement Piano Trio remains one of Brahms's most-popular chamber pieces. American pianist and teacher Gary Graffman, violinist Berl Senofsky, and cellist Shirley Trepel play the piece at least as well as the disc's accompanying performance, so we get a two-for-the-price-of-one kind of deal here.

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.

JJP

To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click here:

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John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.

Contact Information

Readers with polite, courteous, helpful letters may send them to pucciojj@gmail.com.

Readers with impolite, discourteous, bitchy, whining, complaining, nasty, mean-spirited, unhelpful letters may send them to pucciojj@recycle.bin.

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa