Shostakovich: Preludes and Fugues, Op. 87

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COMPOSERS: Shostakovich
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Preludes and Fugues, Op. 87
PERFORMER: Konstantin Scherbakov (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.554745-46
Russian pianist Konstantin Scherbakov has already won considerable plaudits for his recordings of virtuoso piano music by Godowsky and Medtner. His brilliant technique stands him in particularly good stead in this fine recording of Shostakovich’s masterpiece. The razor-sharp precision of his right-hand moto perpetuo semiquavers in the Prelude in B flat takes the breath away, as does the rhythmic dynamism of the near-atonal Fugue in D flat. At the opposite end of the emotional and technical spectrum, there’s an attractive lyricism to his playing of the pastoral F sharp major Prelude, and he manages without contrivance to effect the childlike innocence of the C major Prelude – no mean feat considering the deceptive simplicity of the writing.

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Yet for all Scherbakov’s mastery, certain dimensions of the music prove elusive. In comparison, Tatiana Nikolayeva on Hyperion delivers far more characterised performances, covering a wider range of moods, and drawing the listener’s attention to a wealth of interesting detail that is overlooked by Scherbakov. Adopting generally slower tempi throughout, Nikolayeva builds the quasi-symphonic threads of epic movements such as the concluding D minor Fugue to a more convincing and forceful climax than her compatriot, though. Hyperion’s over-resonant sound becomes wearisome after a while. Erik Levi