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Loneliness permeates this album, its message bleakly drawn and introspective: Marianne von Werefkin’s 1910 cover painting, ‘Tragic Humour’, sets the scene. The second and fourth movements of the Quintet (1940) barely stir, while the poetry of St Petersburg symbolist Alexander Blok, stranded with ‘prophetic intimations of disaster and the darkness of the night’ (Gerard McBurney), reflect and meditate on death. Lean microphoning heightens proceedings, creating an airless atmosphere without resonance or ring. A contemporary noted that Shostakovich ‘demanded the minimum use of vibrato’ in the Quintet, his ‘fast tempi excluding in themselves any possibility of emotional exaggeration.’ Vincent Coq, pianist of the French Trio Wanderer, brings an impressive pedigree to proceedings, even if his deliberated phrasing suggests occasional caution. The same cannot be said of Ekaterina Semenchuk, latest in a line of singers going back to Galina Vishnevskaya, who brings native-born tension and viscerally inflected understanding to the Romances (1967), scattering words and feelings before us.

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