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Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2009

Frankly Music’s Untamed Shostakovich

Classical Review

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Frankly Music presented an all-Shostakovich program at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music last Monday and Tuesday evenings. Pianist Adam Neiman kicked off the program with Three Fantastic Dances and 13 of the 24 Preludes, Op. 34. Neiman often sliced the air with sharply drawn phrases, playing with assertive clarity and capturing each passing mood.

The Piano Trio No. 2 was composed in Leningrad during dire World War II circumstances. Besides the general situation, Shostakovich wrote the piece in grief over the death of his best friend, as well as over the battle death of his most talented composition student. This powerful chamber work is rich with contrasts and psychological depth, from somber contemplation, to blazing astringency in the second movement, to obsessive funereal wailing and cathartic release.

Violinist Frank Almond, cellist Joseph Johnson and Neiman gave a thoroughly engrossing, emotionally raw performance on Monday night, playing with almost shocking, no-holds-barred wildness. After that I had to hear it again. The next night the performance was more contained, and generally more finished in all the basic elements of music making, without the untamed edginess. I loved the luxury of hearing it twice, and respected the honest difference in performances.