Shostakovich’s Trio Op. 8 predates his first symphony and was begun when the composer was 16. It followed emotional crises caused by the First World War, his struggle with tuberculosis, the death of his father and his love for the daughter of a Moscow professor. It is not surprising that the work is a kaleidoscope of emotions ranging from ecstasy to despair.
The Trio Op. 67 dates from the worst period of the Second World War (1944) and reflects the deprivations and horrors suffered by the Soviet people at that time. It is said that at the first performance, by Shostakovich and members of the Beethoven Quartet, members of the audience were moved to tears and left stunned at its conclusion. Further performances were banned probably because the authorities recognised that the Jewish theme in the finale was a reference to the persecution of Jews taking place throughout Europe.
The Schnittke Trio (1991) is an arrangement made after the composer had recovered from a serious stroke, of his string Trio of 1985. It is written very much in the style of Shostakovich’s music but is, if anything, even grimmer and more pessimistic than that latter’s 0p. 67. It consists of two long movements, the second even more pessimistic than the first. The work is said to be a tribute to the Viennese composer Alban Berg. All the works are given first class performances and the recording is excellent.