Shostakovich: Preludes and Fugues, Op. 87/1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8,12, 13, 14

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COMPOSERS: Shostakovich
LABELS: Telstar Revelation
WORKS: Preludes and Fugues, Op. 87/1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8,12, 13, 14
PERFORMER: Dmitri Shostakovich (piano)
To say that the performer rather than the performance is the attraction of this disc is in no sense derogatory. Part of the trove of long-forgotten Soviet recordings now released on the Revelation label, this first instalment of Shostakovich’s Preludes and Fugues shows the man-as-pianist reflecting the composer we already knew: nervous, unsentimental, playing the instrument as if Big Brother were looking over his shoulder.


All these readings are fast, and one asks why? Poor technique it cannot be; if so, Shostakovich would surely have chosen slower tempi. Was it doubt about continuities that amazingly made this already senior figure take the pieces at such a lick? Perhaps. As any composer-performer knows, if you’ve doubts that the music flows convincingly, your safety lies in speed.


But Shostakovich needn’t have worried. These are coherent readings that will fascinate both amateur and professional pianists, who will especially want to know how he handled the awkward bits. In many of the Preludes, for example, a reprise of the opening theme is prefaced by a ritenuto and preliminary measures. The way in which the composer controls these passages of redirected tension is a real guide to authentic playing, and a starting point for genuinely individual interpretations. Nicholas Williams