Shostakovich: 24 Preludes & Fugues, Op. 87

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COMPOSERS: Shostakovich
LABELS: Hanssler
WORKS: 24 Preludes & Fugues, Op. 87
PERFORMER: Jenny Lin (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CD 98.530

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Shostakovich’s resolutely and monumentally ‘formalist’ opus was penned in the perilous wake of his 1948 denunciation at the Soviet Composers’ Congress. The benchmark for this great polyphonic cycle has up to now been the superbly authoritative Tatiana Nikolayeva. Her deep understanding of and fellow-feeling for the composer gives her a profound interpretative edge and a sense of spiritual authenticity, despite some ponderous tempos.

While Jenny Lin cannot erase the indelible impressions of that magisterial performance, she brings distinct virtues of her own to Shostakovich’s supreme contrapuntal opus: above all, a crystalline clarity of phrasing and voice-leading, and a remarkably sensitive range of touch and accent. There is a vernal freshness to her approach that pays dividends especially in the earlier stages of the cycle. The absolute confidence with which she throws off the flashing arpeggio-study of Prelude No. 2 is astonishing.

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Not to suggest this is a lightweight interpretation as a whole; as the cycle proceeds Lin gains in power, which is precisely what the music demands. There are hints of what is to come in Prelude No. 3, and we arrive in time at her baleful and dramatic take on the thrummed tremolandos of Prelude No. 14 and the steely strength of her Fugue No. 19. She does not, in short, supplant Nikolayeva, but presents some perceptive alternative readings and her playing is a continual delight. It would be sensible to own both versions. Calum MacDonald