Analysis Shostakovich Piano Trio No

Topics: Piano, Chamber music, Key signature Pages: 6 (1513 words) Published: April 23, 2015
Shostakovich Piano Trio No.2 mov.1 Analysis

The Piano Trio No. 2 in E minor, for violin, cello and piano, Op. 67, with four movements, by Dmitri Shostakovich was written in 1944, in the midst of World War II. The work received its premiere in Leningrad on 14 November 1944. After 1936, Shostakovich separated his compositions to two parallel sections, one for public consumptions, the other one for personal expressions. Therefore, Shostakovich’s chamber music probably constitutes the most complete body of “the real Shostakovich,” the music he wanted to write, rather than the music he was allowed to write. Shostakovich dedicated the Piano Trio No.2 to the memory of Ivan Ivanovich Sollertinsky, who was one of a very close friend of him, had died at the hands of the Nazis on February 11, 1944. During this hard war time, the Jews in the Nazi death camps were forced to dance beside the graves which their bodies would soon be thrown. Therefore, Shostakovich’s personal grief of the death of Sollertinsky he expressed in this trio was accompanied by another equally strong sentiment: the resentment at the atrocity – thousands deaths of targeted specific citizens – under the totalitarian regimes. The whole piece is under the shadow of the death, and the first movement sets the funereal tone for the whole work. The beginning is an introduction with fugal elegy subject, and then it followed with a ternary form. This movement is based on a main theme and some short themes that derived from the main theme, connected with the same motives, and number of short motives (composed of patterns of eighth and quarter notes) which are varied, fragmented, and combined with each other throughout this movement. The E minor fugal opening is with six-measure idea, introduced by the cello alone, playing an Andante elegy theme a with mute and in high-pitched harmonics that appear to illustrate a spirit or ghost. The theme a tends to be arch-shaped, containing motif x (dactyl rhythm) in m.1 and motive y (downscale tetra chord, later with four quarter notes) in m.2. The pitches in the cello part are so high that when the muted violin enters with theme a in m.7, it serves as a bassline to the cello’s melody that sound like they are in different dimensions. The piano takes over the role soon with totally different timbre features the subject with bass octaves in m. 13. While the piano playing in the bassline, the violin represents the “reality” aspect opposite to the ghostly flinched harmonies by the cello. Due to the wide arrangement of the pitches creating a sensation of emptiness, it allowed the linear aspect of the music of each instrument to be heard clearly. At m.26 when the theme a comes back to the violin part, the right hand of the piano served a chromatically rising scale from m.26-m.37 and then took over by the left hand at m. 38 with rising scales to reach the Moderato main section A of the movement at m.46. The piano goes to the movement’s main theme b (in E minor) at m. 48, which is derived from the theme a (contains motif x and y) from the introduction. Although still in octave, the piano part has now shifted to the upper voice of the keyboard. The theme b (“a”) is accompanied by the repeated-notes in the strings as background. The repeated eighth notes are throughout the whole movement and considered as an alarm that people would hear during the war-time. Up until now, the movement has stayed in E minor solidly; the first hint of another key appears at mm. 56-58, presenting theme b’ out fugally in B flat major, but soon goes back to E minor at m.59. This juxtaposition of two distantly related keys is a typical composition way by Shostakovich that occurs several times in this Trio. The theme b’ includes motif u (anapaest rhythm) and motif y. The repeated eighth notes are taken over by the piano while the violin plays the theme c back to E minor (with augmentation of motif y at mm.64-65) from m.61. The variation of theme b’ appears in the...

Bibliography: Keller, James M. Chamber Music: A listener’s Guild. Oxford University Press, 2011.
Radice, Mark A. Chamber Music: an Essential History. The University of Michigan Press, 2012.
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