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Entitled Preghiera (literally, a prayer or entreaty), the presiding spirit in this superb recording is Gidon Kremer. Celebrating his 70th birthday, Kremer invited two of his favourite young artists, cellist Giedrė Dirvanauskaitė and pianist Daniil Trifonov, to join him in the two Rachmaninov Trios. As a haunting addition, Kremer adds an arrangement for violin and piano by Fritz Kreisler of the theme from the slow movement of Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto.

The substantial and expressive centre of this disc is the Trio élégiaque No 2 in D minor, music written in the throes of grief experienced by Rachmaninov on hearing of the death of Tchaikovsky: ‘composed when ill in spirit’ and ‘in memory of a great artist.’ It would be difficult to imagine playing of greater depth and emotional fervour. You are left feeling that Kremer and his colleagues burn with commitment to an idiom still despised in some quarters, and a sense that Rachmaninov could turn on emotion like a tap. Such opinions have long since become quaint and transitory and never more so than when you listen to the first movement – in effect a dirge between violin and cellos above a lament motive on the piano. This trio sounds the tragic note with a vengeance and a despondency that erupts in agitation and violence before a final return at the close of the third movement to the opening idea.

The First Trio is in one movement and is headed ‘lento lugubre’ (that yearning, familiar mood again), an apprentice work but played with the greatest conviction.

All these performances, ideally recorded, make you stop in your tracks and listen with awe. As Kremer puts it ‘when brilliance plays a greater role than the message, we risk becoming smothered’. Wise words borne out in playing that is the reverse of showmanship.

BRYCE MORRISON Read the full review on Agora Classica


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