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Shostakovich: Piano Trios

Stephen Johnson on the intricacies of Shostakovich's two trios for piano and strings.

Stephen Johnson visits Wootton Upper School in Bedfordshire for an exploration of Shostakovich's two very different trios for piano and strings. The first was written in 1923 when the 17-year old composer was a student at the St Petersburg Conservatoire. At that time, Shostakovich often played music to accompany films at a local cinema. His sister remembers him being booed and whistled by the paying audience when he and his friends tried playing the trio along to the movies!

A recording of the slow movement of Shostakovich's second trio was played at the composer's memorial service in 1975. A more mature work, it is full of emotion but also sardonic humour: grotesqueries which act as thinly veiled stabs at the Soviet dictatorship of Jozef Stalin. The work also contains some fascinating Jewish music in the finale - something Shostakovich had been particularly intrigued by in his middle years:

"Jewish music has made a most powerful impression on me. I never tire of delighting in it. It is multifaceted, it can appear to be happy when it is tragic. It is almost always laughter through tears".

Release date:


52 minutes


Role Contributor
Composer Dmitry Shostakovich