This evening we attended a segment of the Festival Internacional de Musica of San Miguel de Allende. The fare was provided by the Hermitage Piano Trio (and friends–there were five musicians). I had purchased moderately priced (OK, the next to cheapest) tickets, which turned out to be perfect: first balcony, almost dead center, with an excellent view of the piano keyboard on which we witnessed as well as heard exceptional artistry. Turns out that four of the five performers are Russian-born but now live in the US. All five have toured as soloists, have captured prestigious awards, and have earned accolades everywhere.
We understood why. We were almost breathless as we listened to their renditions of Rachmaninoff’s Trio elegiaque N. 1 in G minor, Mozart’s Piano Quartet in G minor K. 478 (for piano, violin, viola, and cello), and Shostakovich’s Piano quintet in G minor, Op. 57. The surprise for me was this last number, which was rich in variety and atonal experimentation. I loved it. For years I had ignorantly dismissed Shostakovich as a stooge of Russian communism. Only recently did I learn the extent of his struggle to maintain artistic and personal integrity in the face of Stalin’s hatred. That he escaped with his life is remarkable; probably his immense popularity and incredible genius saved him, making him too big even for Stalin to take down. Anyway, to survive he turned from huge compositions (symphonies, operas) to chamber music, as it “flew under the radar” of Stalin’s culture police. I want to hear more from this man.