II. Allegro non troppo
Having recently finished his Eighth Symphony, Shostakovich stated work on his second Piano Trio in late 1943:
Chamber music demands of a composer the most impeccable technique and depth of thought. I don’t think I will be wrong if I say that composers sometimes hide their poverty-stricken ideas behind the brilliance of orchestral sound. The timbral riches which are at the disposal of the contemporary symphony orchestra are inaccessible to the small chamber ensemble. Thus, to write a chamber work is much harder than to write an orchestral one.
The Trio was completed in August 1944, and premiered in Leningrad on 14 November
The emotional intensity of the trio is in part reflection of Shostakovich’s psychological state at the time. In the spring of 1944 he had suffered bouts of depression and illness and he was mourning the death of one of his closest friends, musicologist Ivan Sollertinsky, to whom the Trio is dedicated. Shostakovich was also horrified at the details emerging of the Red Army’s liberation of the Nazi Concentration camps at Belzec, Sobibor, Majdanek and Treblinka (the fact that Sollertinsky was a Jew may have heightened his empathy). The last movement of the trio quotes a Jewish melody
and is filled with other characteristics of Jewish music (a bold statement in Stalinist Russia). Upon hearing a performance the Moscow premiere on 28 November 1944, violinist Rostislav Dubinsky noted: “the music left a devastating impression. People cried openly. The last, “The Jewish Part” of the Trio, by popular demand had to be repeated.”
© Greg Smith, 2009