Having just spent a great evening listening to Shostakovich's large scale works at the Royal Festival Hall (see the review), it was fascinating to listen to a work on a very much smaller scale - at least instrumentally - in the shape of his D minor Cello Sonata. This was played last night by the new pairing of cellist Gemma Rosefield and pianist Katya Apekisheva in a private run-through as preparation for a concert next week.

The smaller forces involved belie the scale of Shostakovich's ambition. The music is a perpetual motion machine, constantly taking you from one mental place to another. You really have no idea what's coming next: it could be despair, languour, cheerfulness, calm or thoughtfulness and is always laced with Shostakovich's ironic humour. The whole piece is also musically eclectic, with themes, harmonies and rhythms taken, it would seem, from anything the composer could lay his hands on. It was written in 1934 at what must have been a low point in Shostakovich's life - in the middle of a temporary divorce from his wife Nina (they subsequently re-married) and just after the production of the opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, which was soon to cause mayhem and danger in Shostakovich's life when Stalin officially denounced it.

The "perpetuum mobile" feel was particularly evident in the second movement, which Rosefield and Apekisheva played with demonic verve. The following slow movement was achingly beautiful.

The concert is on Wednesday 10th March at St Paul's School in Barnes, West London. It also includes music by Beethoven, Schumann and Mendelssohn. Well worth a trip...

5th March 2010