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Shostakovich – Works Unveiled

Ekaterina Bakanova (soprano), Alexandros Stavrakakis (bass), Florent Jodelet (percussion), Sueye Park (violin), Nicholas Stavy, Cedric Tibergien (piano) (BIS)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Works Unveiled – Symphony No. 14 (piano and percussion version); Violin Sonata; plus early piano works
Ekaterina Bakanova (soprano), Alexandros Stavrakakis (bass), Florent Jodelet (percussion), Sueye Park (violin), Nicholas Stavy, Cedric Tibergien (piano)
BIS BIS-2550 (CD/SACD)   76:27 mins

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Nicolas Stavy’s painstaking trawl through the Shostakovich Archives has brought together some completely unknown works from the composer’s vast output with a major masterpiece recorded for the first time in a completely different guise. Admittedly, not everything here is of the highest quality. For instance, the earliest music, a collection of four short piano pieces composed during Shostakovich’s teenage years, is fluent but largely derivative.

Yet the rest of the album has much to offer. From the 1920s, we get a deftly scored arrangement of the first 95 bars to the Adagio of Mahler’s Tenth Symphony for piano duet, which is beautifully performed by Stavy and Cédric Tiberghien. Another tantalisingly brief fragment is the large-scale opening section of an unfinished Violin Sonata dating from 1945 which is given a powerfully committed performance by Stavy and Sueye Park.

However, the most substantial discovery is undoubtedly the composer’s reduction for piano and percussion of the orchestral score to his 14th Symphony. Whether or not Shostakovich conceived this arrangement as a viable performing alternative to the original, rather than a useful vehicle for helping the vocal soloists learn their parts, its intimate scoring works particularly effectively in the more reflective settings such as the opening ‘De profundis’, ‘O Delvig, Delvig!’ and ‘The Poet’s Death’. Elsewhere, despite Stavy’s phenomenal mastery of the enormously tricky piano writing, I miss some of the cut and thrust of Shostakovich’s pungent string writing, especially in the frenzied musical argument of ‘Loreley’ and in the furious outburst of anger unleashed at the end of ‘The Zaporozhian Cossacks’ Answer to the Sultan of Constantinople’.

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Erik Levi