The music culture of Russia was in focus at last summer's edition of "Tensions," a chamber music festival in the western German village of Heimbach.
We'll begin not with Russian melancholy but with the German kind. Brahms penned his Clarinet Trio opus 114 after having passed the age of 60, inspired by a meeting he had with a talented clarinetist.
It's a piece that festival director Lars Vogt is enthused about. "It's difficult to put in words," says Vogt, "the whole poetry, the harmonic dimension, the psychological journey that's in all his works. In this piece I feel that a heart is boiling, but that of an older man who has experienced already a lot of things, a lot of pain. He's still in the middle of life. But to me, it seems like the memory of struggles."
Dmitri Shostakovich's closest friend from their early days together in St. Petersburg was the publicist Ivan Ivanovic Solertinski. In 1944, Solertinski died, only 41 years old.
It came as a shock to Shostakovich, who'd lost nearly his whole circle of friends in the three previous wartime years. "I lack the words to express the immeasurable pain that tortures my entire being," he wrote.
Where words fail, music begins: Shostakovich poured his shock and pain into the Piano Trio opus 67, and it became probably his most often performed piece of chamber music. Russian pianist Dina Ugorskaya described it to DW thus:
"There are moments of depth, desperation and rage in every movement," said Ugorskaya. "You also get a diabolical sense of joy in the Scherzo movement. I think of the correspondence between Solertinski and Shostakovich, their brilliant back-and-forth and their philosophizing about the meaning of life. You even find Jewish themes from Hebrew music worked into the fabric of the composition. One has to communicate every phrase and every turn of thought personally."
Clarinet Trio in A Minor op. 114
Sharon Kam, clarinet
Tanja Tetzlaff, cello
Lars Vogt, piano
Piano trio No. 2 in E Minor, op. 67
Gergana Gergova, violin
Alban Gerhardt, cello
Dina Ugorskaya, piano
Recorded by Radio Deutschlandfunk, Cologne, in the Power Plant in Heimbach on June 18, 2018