Bach/Shostakovich

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Bach/Shostakovich
LABELS: RCA Red Seal
WORKS: Das wohltemperirte Klavier, Book 1 (excerpts);24 Preludes and Fugues, Op. 87 (excerpts)
PERFORMER: Olli Mustonen (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 74321 61446 2
Here Olli Mustonen plays 24 preludes and fugues, one in every key: half by Bach from Book 1 of the ‘48’, the other half by Shostakovich, mostly presented in groups of three at a time per composer. It is certainly an original idea, and perhaps only an artist as innovative and convincing as Mustonen could have made it work as well as it does: the direct juxtaposition sheds light on both the Classicism of Shostakovich and the astonishing modernity of Bach. The booklet notes point out that there are often parallels between Shostakovich’s Preludes and Fugues and Bach’s in the same key, but this remains a tantalising comparison as we hear only works in different keys; however, it is still possible to explore cross-currents, such as the similarity of the Bach E flat major Prelude to Shostakovich’s in C sharp minor.

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Mustonen seems to have a limitless range of expression and touch and his crisp, non-legato articulation at times resembles Glenn Gould’s. Certain elements – sudden surging crescendos, selected notes sharply attacked – verge on the mannered; but his freshness, vivid imagination, technical brilliance and penetrating clarity are compelling and persuasive. We can hope that he will follow up these discs with the rest of both sets.