Delta Piano Trio - THE MIRROR WITH THREE FACES
- 01 – Shostakovich – Piano Trio No. 2 in E minor Op. 67 – I. Andante
- 02 – Shostakovich – Piano Trio No. 2 in E minor Op. 67 – II. Allegro con brio
- 03 – Shostakovich – Piano Trio No. 2 in E minor Op. 67 – III. Largo
- 04 – Shostakovich – Piano Trio No. 2 in E minor Op. 67 – IV. Allegretto
- 05 – Auerbach – Piano Trio No. 1 – I. Prelude
- 06 – Auerbach – Piano Trio No. 1 – II. Andante lamentoso
- 07 – Auerbach – Piano Trio No. 1 – III. Presto
- 08 – Auerbach – Piano Trio No. 2 Triptych – The Mirror with Three Faces – I. Prelude
- 09 – Auerbach – Piano Trio No. 2 Triptych – The Mirror with Three Faces – II. First Unfolding
- 10 – Auerbach – Piano Trio No. 2 Triptych – The Mirror with Three Faces – III. Second Unfolding
- 11 – Auerbach – Piano Trio No. 2 Triptych – The Mirror with Three Faces – VI. TellÕem What You See
- 12 – Auerbach – Piano Trio No. 2 Triptych – The Mirror with Three Faces – V. Folding – Postlude
DELTA PIANO TRIO – THE MIRROR WITH THREE FACES
The Delta Piano Trio enjoys a special relationship with composer Lera Auerbach. Whilst searching for contemporary repertoire the group fell in love with Auerbach’s piano trios, performing them regularly and, after writing to her about them, enjoying the opportunity to work on this music together with the composer. This experience has given these musicians a unique insight into Auerbach’s piano trios. The title of this CD was inspired by Auerbach’s second piano trio, Tryptych – The Mirror with Three Faces (2012). The work, which is at the heart of this disc, follows the physical construction of a hinged mirror, and Auerbach speaks of it in terms of a theatre piece in which three individuals have their own separate stories but are part of a single entity. Yet there is an ambiguity about the reflection in the mirror – is it three facets of the same person, or three separate images?
Auerbach’s Piano Trio No. 1 is one of her earliest works, with fascinating allusions to 19th- and 20th-century musical traditions, yet with the addition of very specific effects which imbue her music with a unique spectrum of colours. The influence of Shostakovich is audible in Auerbach’s Piano Trio No. 1, and this disc opens with Shostakovich’s Piano Trio No. 2. The opening movement is a paradoxical combination of rigorous counterpoint and ethereal harmonics, followed by a more forceful, rustic and ironic second movement. A mournful passacaglia follows, and the work concludes with a haunting ‘Dance of Death’.
The Delta Piano Trio hails from The Netherlands but met in Austria, where they soon discovered a wonderful personal and music rapport; a unique and infectious friendship which is communicated in the joy and intimacy of their performances. The Delta Piano Trio has performed extensively in Europe, Russia, Israel, China, South Korea and the United States, including concerts at the Salzburg Chamber Music Festival, the New York Chamber Music Festival, and at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam; the Trio has also won prizes at numerous international competitions.
Booklet in English, German, Dutch and French.
Program notes by Hugh Collins Rice.
“… an instant ear grabber… Gerard Spronk, Irene Enzlin and Vera Kooper are the excellent trio players, and Odradek’s new Italian studio sounds idyllic.”
Slipped Disc - Norman Lebrecht / December 2017
Album of the Week
“As the last releases of the year drop through the door, this is an instant ear grabber. Debate has raged for three decades as to whether Dmitri Shostakovich was a limp Soviet puppet or a secret resistant. The first view was advanced by US musicologists, who would not be satisfied until they had a signed document saying ‘I hate Stalin.’ Russian friends and fans of the composer heard his dissidence expressed in the music.
Thankfully, the dispute is being resolved by a new generation of musicians who come fresh to the music. The Delta Piano Trio’s account of Shostakovich’s second Piano trio, dated 1944, leaves no doubt to the composer’s state of mind in the closing stages of the Second World War. Ostensibly a tribute to a late friend, Ivan Sollertinsky, the work ripples with anger and frustration at pointless deaths and ruined lives – the appalling legacy of the Stalin-Hitler era. The last two movements, with their overt Hebrew melodies, are a protest at Soviet indifference to the Nazi holocaust of the Jews. I don’t think I have ever heard the finale played with more explicit regard to the composer’s intentions.
This deathless masterpiece is paired with two trios by the post-Soviet composer Lera Auerbach, who settled in the US, aged 17, in 1991. Musically, Auerbach occupies a post-Shostakovich estate, employing Bach bites and Mahlerian irony to drive a brisk, bleak, unsentimental outlook. At first hearing, she does not sound like the most original composer ever to draw pen. But her collage technique, reminiscent of Schittke though less aggressive, is effective in various surprising ways. The more recent of the two trios, dated 2012, dances very slowly on the edge of a volcano. Where Shostakovich blazed against the totalitarian state, Auerbach laments our present states of leaderless uncertainty. She’s a mature composer with a lot to say. Gerd Spronk, Irene Enzlin and Vera Kooper are the excellent trio players, and Odradek’s new Italian studio sounds idyllic.”
“The Delta Piano Trio deliver a very powerful and convincing account of Shostakovich’s Second Piano Trio, one which takes nothing in the music for granted. Throughout, there is a keen attention to details often overlooked by other interpreters…”
BBC Music Magazine - Erik Levi / May 2018
“The Delta Piano Trio deliver a very powerful and convincing account of Shostakovich’s Second Piano Trio, one which takes nothing in the music for granted.
Throughout, there is a keen attention to details often overlooked by other interpreters. Good examples are their exaggeratedly snarling surges of sound which bring a particularly subversive element to the already frenzied Scherzo, and the violin’s grotesquely rasping open E string in the Jewish dance at the start of the Finale. Apart from these significant interpretative nuances, the Delta Piano Trio also has a fine grasp of longer-term structure, as reflected in the way they control the rise and fall in intensity of the Passacaglia, then trace the slow yet inexorable buildup of bitterness and anger through the Finale to overwhelming effect.
Lera Auerbach’s soundworld inhabits similar realms of irony and darkness as Shostakovich, even though she employs a more advanced musical language that owes much to Alfred Schnittke.
Her First Piano Trio, completed when she was only 21 years of age, has some striking ideas, in particular a sequence of high glissandos on the cello near the end of the first movement that evokes the sound of seagulls.
The Second Trio, composed 20 years later, is more complex in design, but retains the earlier work’s capacity to communicate vivid musical images. As in the Shostakovich, the Delta Piano Trio delivers strongly characterised performances and Odradek’s recording is both warm and clear.”
“… a vivid, wide-eyed performance… I found it irresistible.”
Gramophone - Richard Bratby / April 2018
“And that goes double for the two piano trios of Russian-born Lera Auerbach presented here in what, if they aren’t premiere recordings (the booklet doesn’t say, but it looks likely), are surely definitive accounts by the Delta Piano Trio - another highly impressive Dutch ensemble. If McDowall is understated, Auerbach is extrovert, eclectic and unafraid to go large. Are we still allowed to use the term ‘postmodern’? What’s intriguing about these two works — the epigrammatic Trio No l (1994) and the considerably larger Triptych (2012) — is how, for all Auerbach's gleeful musical bricolage (her language ranges from mock-baroque bustle to Prokofiev-like constructivist anarchy), there's still an unmistakable sense of this music fitting into the Russian tradition of Shostakovich, whose Second Trio, in a vivid, wide-eyed performance, opens the disc.
There’s deﬁnitely something serious going on beneath the surface here and the Delta Piano Trio manage to find it - even while throwing themselves wholeheartedly into Auerbach’s seagull cries, motorbike drones and wobbly imitations of a musical saw. You’ll need a sense of humour, but I found it irresistible.”
“I cannot speak highly enough of the Delta Piano Trio. If this adventurous issue is anything to go by, theirs is a future of infinite promise. The Odradek recording is absolutely outstanding…”
MusicWeb International - Richard Hanlon / June 2018
Recording of the Month
“In the booklet accompanying this issue, this young Dutch piano trio introduce themselves in a delightful preface which details the serendipity behind their formation, their approach to rehearsal and their views on performance and touring. There’s real humility and humanity here and reading it I found myself liking their style before I’d even heard a note, and really wanting to like this disc. Well I do, very much.
Naxos released their debut recording in 2017: it contained trios by Taneyev and Borodin. This splendid follow-up contains more Russian repertoire, albeit of more recent provenance (Lera Auerbach is Russian-born but actually defected to America in her late teens). The pieces are aptly chosen. Coupling a towering masterpiece of the 20th century piano trio canon with two less familiar 21st century examples gives the group the opportunity to stamp their identity on a familiar work, while at the same time establishing a benchmark for the Auerbach pieces. They achieve these objectives most convincingly.
In fact, there is nothing ‘familiar’ about Shostakovich’s second trio in this fresh and fascinating account. ‘Playing safe’ is clearly not part of the Delta’s artistic manifesto, yet there is nothing wilful or pretentious about this performance. There is a sense of the players taking the piece by the scruff of the neck and re-interpreting its many ambiguities in interesting, revealing ways. Hugh Collins Rice’s perceptive note hits the nail on the head by identifying the moment of the trio’s conception, plumb between the tragic, heart-on-sleeve Eighth symphony and the ironic, biting Ninth. The core of this trio seems to lie in a corridor of ambivalence between these two emotional states. That assumption provides the context for the Deltas’ imaginative and often thrilling ‘re-telling’.
The stratospherically high opening muted strings sound especially frigid and fragile here, as though the birth of this work will be difficult at least, almost beyond the bounds of human control. In Odradek’s incredibly detailed recording, the listener misses neither a breath nor a heartbeat. This sounds like a reading borne of years of experience of the work rather than one by a group at the dawn of their career. The quick staccato tread of the strings as the Andante proceeds is more pronounced and ‘grainier’ than on more familiar recordings. It presents a convincing contrast to the opening. Each successive idea is freshly presented, fully considered and assimilated into the Delta’s cogent vision of the whole. The whirlwind Allegro con brio scherzo is virtuosically delivered, the string effects at its conclusion spat out most strangely. This is not remotely cosy -The Delta’s playing here is frankly thrilling. Gerard Spronk’s violin cantilena at the start of the Largo is frozen and heart-breaking. The pianist seemingly has little do in this temporally brief yet spiritually infinite passacaglia other than to release its 48 chords into the air, but how they hang! This desolate music drips with pointlessness, waste and loss. It is profoundly affecting. The ‘Dance of Death’ finale presents the ambiguities of the whole clothed in possibly the most dramatic sonic garb I have yet encountered. The dynamic and textural contrasts are exaggerated most tastefully and tellingly better to convey Shostakovich’s terrifying message. This is brilliant, thoughtful and novel music-making. Its power is considerably amplified by Odradek’s terrific recording. Hearing the Delta Piano Trio here took me back to the last time I was so impressed by a new chamber group. That was the Pavel Haas String Quartet’s debut releases of Janacek and Haas on Supraphon. On this evidence, this group certainly belong in that august company.
There are odd commonalities between Lera Auerbach’s two piano trios and the two by Shostakovich. In both cases, the first essays are unusually short (about 13 minutes in each case) while their successors are roughly twice as long; moreover, the first trios are products of the composers’ late teens, with the ‘follow-ups’ emerging in their late thirties. (This really isn’t a beef, but would it not have been possible to include Shostakovich’s stylistically uncharacteristic first trio here?). Both Auerbach works have both recorded before: No 1 on Cedille in a recital of modern piano trios by American composers (review) and No 2 on BRIDGE 9407, referenced here. This is a measure of the headway this intriguing composer (and poet and painter) has made in recent times. I know neither account but they would need to be exceptional to surpass the Delta’s readings here.
According to the booklet, Auerbach accepts that her first trio emerged at, ‘perhaps the most difficult (time) of my life’; the late teenage years are prone to emotional volatility and what the psychologist Eriksson referred to as ‘identity confusion’, even without the upheavals presumably encountered in defection and exile. It begins in the manner of a Shostakovich piano prelude, albeit one strangely distorted and modified. There is a trippy, stop-start kind of mood to this first movement – the manner in which the range of colours and shapes in this tiny two-minute panel gleefully uncovered and tossed about by the Deltas is bewildering. Towards the end, high notes in the cello deliberately evoke the sound of seagulls – I wonder if this gesture alludes to arrival in a new land? In the central Andante lamentoso, an intense, slow cello melody gravid with feeling wanders through a landscape shorn of consolation and hinting at nostalgia. A little piano theme in the middle reminded me of John Ireland but I suspect Amberley Wild Brooks was the last thing on Auerbach’s mind when she wrote it. The lovely unison exchanges between violin and cello towards its end live long in the memory. This is rapt, exquisite playing. The final Presto begins in the manner of an aggressive and unsettling moto perpetuo: this eventually dissolves into a post-apocalyptic nether-world of bleak harmonics and sul ponticello effects. This episode builds towards a reiteration of the virile spirit of the opening bars and ultimately to an abrupt conclusion. Auerbach’s chamber music is often compared to that of Alfred Schnittke but on this evidence, hers is actually more fluent and driven. This is an excellent piece and again given with tremendous élan by these performers.
The second trio has a psychological, theatrical quality, epitomised in its subtitle The Mirror Has Three Faces which (nearly) gives this album its name. This piece considers the inherent contradictions in the idea of a trio (a unit per se) consisting of three unique personalities. The structure of the piece is thus likened to a hinged mirror. Dramatic forte piano chords launch the work, the strings enter and the work proceeds in the manner of an eerie barcarolle. Self-evidently, compared to its predecessor, this is the music of an older hand. The material collapses into itself in a few moments of chaotic dissonance before the limpid opening pulse returns. The following First Unfolding is a rapid minute of manic pseudo-romantic posturing, it acts as a gateway into the Second Unfolding which is marked libero. This is a waltz which is stretched and distorted hither and thither; textures thicken and dissonances become more strident. Strange, tapping pizzicato and hysterical glissandi punctuate this sonic bortsch. This is tangy, atmospheric, challenging music, an invitation to a dangerous soirée, perhaps. The longest movement, assertively entitled Tell ‘em what you see begins as a propulsive Allegro which hits the buffers in a deeply mysterious central section; perhaps this is the ‘revelation’ implied by the movement’s title? The concluding postlude, marked Adagio nostalgico features a disembodied, sad violin memory which seems oddly disconnected from the rest of the trio. Strange piano pizzicati augur warmer melodic material, first in the cello, then in all three instruments, which muse, seemingly, on the folly (or futility) of our collective pasts. If this all sounds unremittingly bleak, that is very far from the case. Auerbach’s work is brilliantly written and conceived, colourful, imaginative, rhythmically and timbrally diverse and profoundly haunting. The performance is again exhilarating.
I cannot speak highly enough of the Delta Piano Trio. If this adventurous issue is anything to go by, theirs is a future of infinite promise. The Odradek recording is absolutely outstanding; it projects elemental detail rendered in a naturally warm acoustic. It’s the second, superb product from this source that I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing inside a week. A must for all lovers of the genre, the absorbing account of the Shostakovich deserves the widest possible currency in its own right.”
“The playing of the ‘Deltas’ is highly concentrated and of equal intellectual clarity, while infinitely fragile, even tender, spiced with a pinch of nostalgia… the famous Trio no. 2 by Shostakovich bursts with vitality.”
Trouw - Christo Leli / March 2018
“One of the iconic chamber music works of the 20th century is the Piano Trio no. 2 in e minor, op. 67, by Dmitri Shostakovich. The work, written in 1944, is an epitaph for a friend of the composer who passed away, as well as for the millions of Jews who were murdered in concentration camps at that time. The hesitating and chilling beginning with thin harmonics is the ultimate voicing of that suffering.
The young Delta Piano Trio gives off an impressive business card with a very intense performance of this work. Violinist Gerard Spronk, cellist Irene Enzlin and pianist Vera Kooper guarantee a very inspired performance. They combine Shostakovich with two trios of Russian composer Lera Auerbach (1973).
Her compact Piano Trio no. 1 is grafted on Shostakovich's sound world, but certainly has an own identity, shown for example in the bizarre, quasi-baroque opening with sounds of screaming seagulls.
Her grand Piano Trio no. 2, 'This Mirror Has Three Faces', is a fascinating, three-part music mirror in which the composer makes the listener doubt what is reality and what reflection.
This CD, also gorgeously designed, calls for further acquaintance with Lera Auerbach and the Delta Piano Trio.”
“… rhythmically strong… sparkling… the Delta Piano Trio has a common vision…”
Recensie de Volkskrant / March 2018
"[…] There are moments, especially in the final part of the Shostakovich, where you think “wow, that’s good”. The Delta’s are rhythmically strong. Vera Kooper plays in a sparkling, un-Dutch way, Irene Enzlin is way past the talent-stage.
But those moments are contrasted with passages in which the finishing touches could have been better, especially in the violin part. At the end of Auerbachs Triptych one knows: the Delta Piano Trio has a common vision, the bird’s-eye-view is almost there…”
“The Shostakovich is a gutsy performance, magnificent in its grasp and fully in tune with the composer’s many faces… The piano is superbly recorded, and the balance between the three musicians expertly judged… A wonderful, enriching performance…”
International Piano Magazine - Colin Clarke / September/October 2018
“The Shostakovich is a gutsy performance, magnificent in its grasp and fully in tune with the composer's many faces. The keening gestures of the second movement are brilliantly achieved via the tightest ensemble. the third movement Passacaglia is hypnotically executed and the macabre dance of death that is the finale moves forward with chilling, inexorable momentum. The piano is superbly recorded, and the balance between the three musicians expertly judged.
While Shostakovich's Second Piano Trio is at least vaguely well-known, the music of Lera Auerbach demands to be heard. Born in Russia.Auerbach emigrated to the States in 1991. Her music is far from unknown - a disc of piano music by Ksenia Nosikova is notable - but it is a way from receiving the recognition it richly deserves.
Auerbach’s Piano Trio No.1 (1992/4) is an early work that begins with a traditional emphasis on counterpoint; but its first movement ends with remarkably effective seagull imitations. lrene Enzlin’s cello sings expressively in the Andante lamentoso. The virtuosity of the finale (a Presto) reaches a plateau of Shostakovich-like, post-cataclysm stasis. Moving forward some 20 years. the second trio, Triptych: The Mirror with Three Fares takes inspiration from a hinged mirror: three faces, but are they the same person?
Contrasts are critical. from the frozen first movement to the grand gestures of the fleeting second, thence to a Shostakovich-influenced Waltz. A wonderful, enriching performance of a piece that demands attention.”