Rachmaninov had seen Tchaikovsky in perfect health only days before the latter’s sudden death in 1893 and, like many others, was overcome with shock and grief at the unexpected loss. He began work on his Elegiac Trio on the day of Tchaikovsky’s death and completed it two months later. “While working on it, all my thoughts, feelings, powers belonged to it. … I trembled for every phrase,” he wrote to a friend. Although the trio was well received, the composer was not satisfied with it and revised it twice, first in 1907, and then again a decade later.
Shostakovich wrote the Trio in E minor as a memorial to his closest friend, the musicologist Ivan Sollertinsky, whose sudden death at the age of 41 devastated the composer. “It is impossible to express in words all the grief that engulfed me,” he wrote to a friend. “To live without him will be unbearably difficult.” The Trio also reflects Shostakovich’s rage against Hitler for the suffering caused by the German invasion of the Soviet Union and for the Nazi’s genocidal persecution of the Jews.
Dmitri Makhtin was born in St. Petersburg in 1975 and studied with his parents, both professional violinists, before entering the Conservatory for highly talented children in 1981. In 1989 he was awarded first prize at the Russian National Competition for young violinists and subsequently won the Premio Paganini and the Montreal and Sibelius competitions. He won grants from a foundation and from a music school in California in 1990. Two years later, he moved to Holland to study with Philippe Hirschhorn at the Utrecht Conservatory. Makhtin has appeared in recital throughout the U.S. and has performed with major orchestras in Russia, the U.S. and Europe under conductors including Evgeny Svetlanov, Leonard Slatkin, Sakari Oramo, Jiři Belohlávek, Jerzy Semkow and Yuri Temirkanov.
Boris Berezovsky was born in Moscow in 1969. He studied at the Moscow Conservatoire, made his Wigmore Hall debut in 1988 and went on to win the Gold Medal at the 1990 Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow. He appears regularly as a soloist with the major European, American and Japanese orchestras and with conductors including Kurt Masur, Wolfgang Sawallisch, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Mikhail Pletnev and Antonio Pappano. Berezovsky also performs recitals and chamber music as part of major recital series and festivals world-wide. His regular partners, in addition to Dmitri Makhtin and Alexander Kniazev, include Julian Rachlin, Michael Collins and Ralph Kirschbaum.
Born in 1961 in Moscow, Alexander Kniazev first studied the piano but gave it up to learn the cello, eventually going to the Moscow Conservatoire from which he graduated in 1986. He has won prizes in competitions in Vilnius, Cassado, Trapani and Pretoria as well as the Tchaikovsky International Competition in 1990. Kniazev has performed as soloist with leading orchestras in the U.K., Germany, Japan and the U.S. under conductors including Evgeny Svetlanov, Mstislav Rostropovich, Vladimir Fedoseev, Yuri Temirkanov and Neemi Järvi. In addition to Boris Berezovsky and Dmitri Makhtin, his chamber music partners have included Vadim Repin, Nikolai Lugansky, Brigitte Engerer, Augustin Dumay, Maria-João Pires and Evgeny Kissin. Kniazev is currently a professor at the Moscow Conservatoire and gives masterclasses in Europe and Asia.