Concert by Sheffield Chamber Players
Written almost 70 years apart, both Rachmaninoff’s first piano trio and Shostakovich’s seventh quartet deal with the subject of loss in their unique way. However, while Shostakovich looks six years back to re-examine the complicated emotions around the passing of his first wife, Rachmaninoff’s trio seems to foreshadow Tchaikovsky’s passing only a year and a half after the work was written.
The Sheffield Chamber Players will talk in depth about each piece before performing and will continue the discussion in a Zoom Q&A after the concert.
At the time of writing his first piano trio, Rachmaninoff was only 18 and a student at the Moscow Conservatory. While still far away from the international fame he was to enjoy later in his life, he nevertheless was already well-known as a phenomenal pianist and was making his first steps as a composer. At the time of writing this trio in 1892, Rachmaninoff had no reasons to question Tchaikovsky’s wellbeing. His role model and patron was in good health at the time and enjoyed a very busy schedule full of premieres and conducting appearances. It could be that the elegiac title and the spirit of this trio were adopted in imitation of Tchaikovsky’s great piano trio, written in memory of his good friend Nikolai Rubinstein.
There are multiple parallels between the works, including the final appearance of the theme in the guise of a funeral march. Tchaikovsky, however, passed away unexpectedly only 18 months after this trio was written, and it is hard to shake off the particular sense of premonition that this music carries. After Tchaikovsky’s death, Rachmaninoff wrote his second piano trio, also titled elegiac, in memory of the departed master.
While Rachmaninoff seems to have glimpsed into the future when writing his first piano trio, Shostakovich was certainly preoccupied with the past when creating his seventh quartet. It was written in March of 1960 and dedicated to his first wife Nina, who died six years prior. These six years certainly didn’t pass idly: during this time Shostakovich kept composing at a steady pace, creating some of his most famous works, including the cello concerto No.1, piano concerto No.2, Suite for Variety Orchestra, String quartet No. 6, and the epic symphony No.11. His personal life, however, was in turmoil after his brief second marriage fell apart. It seems that at this point his thoughts are gravitating towards Nina and her sudden passing. At only 13 minutes in length, this quartet is the shortest he composed. The brevity, however, is balanced by density. The three movements flow into each other without a break and, with minimal brush strokes, masterfully spell out a journey through the stages of grief.
Presented by the Russian Department. Please register in advance.
the Maria Opasnov Tyler ’52 Fund