There are few Piano Trios performing today that can match the technical precision and the ability to capture the essence of the various composers whose music they interpret of the Florestan Trio; Susan Tomes, piano, Anthony Marwood, violin, and Richard Lester, cello. For the past 16 years (and some 21 recordings) they have been the premiere ensemble in this venue. For their final recording, or adieu, they have provided one of their finest. On this sensitively programmed CD they perform the two Shostakovich Piano Trios - opus 8 in C minor and opus 67 in E minor. Rarely have these two dark works succeeded so well, not only with the extraordinary finesse with which they are played but also with the understanding of Shostakovich's troubled soul's response to oppression or man's inhumanity toward man that these performances hold. These are simply the finest recordings of these works available.
And as if that weren't enough to convince the listener of the importance of both the composer's music and the quality of history the trio has enjoyed they have added another Brit, the gifted Susan Gritton, to sing the rarely heard 'Seven Romances on Poems of Alexander Blok, opus 127, written in response to a request by Mstislav Rostropovich for repertoire he and his wife could perform together. This unusual and intimate sequence of Romances conveys the sweetness and intensity of love, threatened by intimations of darkness. Susan Gritton's intelligent reading finds that treacherous midline between the soaring vocal line and the dark, almost menacing setting of the songs. Especially in the final song - `Muzïka' - there is a sense of focused intensity among the trio and soloist that is breathtaking.
This is a recording that for many reasons should be part of every music lover's library and likely will be at the top of the lists for Grammy awards. Grady Harp, May 11