Shostakovich: 24 Preludes and Fugues, Op. 87

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COMPOSERS: Shostakovich
LABELS: Dynamic
WORKS: 24 Preludes and Fugues, Op. 87
PERFORMER: Boris Petrushansky (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: S 2039 Reissue (1992-3)
I first (and last) heard Boris Petrushansky a third of a century ago, when he distinguished himself at the 1969 Leeds International Piano Competition. Even then, his musicianship and pianistic command were impressive and it’s some measure of his accomplishment that I should remember his playing so well after so long a time. Like most of his pianistic compatriots, he had the capacity to dazzle; unlike many, he chose to dazzle only when the music required it. Perhaps this musicianly restraint has cost him something, career-wise, but as this release makes plain, he has continued to be a musician first and a pianist second. His keen polyphonic ear and manifest grasp of structure at many levels serve him well in these often extraordinary pieces, and he keeps you listening from beginning to end. This is masterly playing: powerful, poignant, dramatic, reflective and commanding. But for me, it lacks sufficient subtlety, range and diversity of melodic inflection (as, also, of tonal coloration) to lift the playing here from the very good indeed to the truly great and compelling. With two ‘rival’ versions from the late and very great Tatiana Nikolaeva it strikes me, I have to say, as doubly outclassed. Nikolaeva was the dedicatee and inspiration of this monumental achievement but it’s the depth of her art, the unostentatious grandeur and delicacy of her technique, and her panoramic vision, rather than her historical connections that render her versions (one on BMG/Melodiya, the other on Hyperion) pretty well unassailable. Jeremy Siepmann