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Shostakovich: Trio No. 2, Op. 67; Cello Sonata, Op. 40; violinist Isaac Stern, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, pianist Emanuel Ax (CBS MK 44664). The dedication and complete identification of these performers with the remarkable 1944 Shostakovich Trio can be felt in every measure of this superbly clean and balanced recording. Both its perky, searching lyricism and the underlying sense of lamentation infused through the introduction and development of Jewish folk themes are projected with an intensifying persuasiveness that overrides any minor technical glitches. This performance really boils. The same is true of the 1934 Cello Sonata, a work of similar originality, but more wry and sarcastic than bitter because it is untinged by the first massive censure Shostakovich received from Stalin in 1936. -- Herman Trotter
Paul Hillier, Proensa (ECM New Series 837 860, all formats). At any given time, the number of truly great early music ensembles is not large. Few are greater at the moment than the Hilliard Ensemble which Paul Hillier founded in 1974 and which has, of late, also become indispensable in the performance of contemporary music (the "Passio"of naive Lithuanian master Arvo Part, for instance). And yet an opportunity to hear a recital by Hillier himself is virtually unprecedented. On this brilliant record, Hillier and instrumentalists perform the troubadour music of medieval Provence (whose poetry, sans music, so deeply impressed Ezra Pound). As realized by Hillier, it becomes a kind of 12th and 13th century version of post-modern eclecticism, full of musical cross-traffic from Asia, Africa and the North countries. -- Jeff Simon

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