Shostakovich: Preludes, Op. 2; Three Fantastic Dances; Aphorisms; Polka, Op. 22; 24 Preludes, Op. 34; Seven Dolls’ Dances

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Shostakovich
LABELS: Stradivarius
ALBUM TITLE: Shostakovich
WORKS: Preludes, Op. 2; Three Fantastic Dances; Aphorisms; Polka, Op. 22; 24 Preludes, Op. 34; Seven Dolls’ Dances
PERFORMER: Boris Petrushansky (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: STR 33727
Boris Petrushansky, in what is promised as the first volume of a complete Shostakovich piano music, concentrates here on the cycles of miniatures from the very early, almost Romantic Op. 2 Preludes to the charming Dolls’ Dances from 1950. In between we encounter the acerbities of the Fantastic Dances and Aphorisms, the louche fun of the Golden Age polka, and the incisive character-sketches of the 24 Preludes of 1932-33. Petrushansky is finely attuned to the music’s many moods, adept at seizing and establishing an atmosphere from the very first bar, scintillating in the manic fast pieces, nicely judging the level of sentiment (or lack of it) in the slow ones, and always rhythmically alert and witty. It’s an impressive achievement, making such insubstantial material seem so hard, so solid, an irrefutable battery of musical objects likely to outlast hundreds of more grandiose declarations by lesser composers.

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Proceeding in chronological order, the Stradivarius recording starts out a little shallow and boxy in the earliest pieces, but the balance and sonority improve once we are into the Aphorisms. There are few rival versions, except for the 24 Preludes, and here I still feel Tatiana Nikolayeva’s magisterial reading bears the palm, probing deeper into the emotional core of these highly concentrated utterances (her disc also includes the Fantastic Dances); but Petrushansky is nonetheless excellent throughout and anyone wanting any of these cycles need not hesitate. Further volumes in this series should be worth hearing. Calum MacDonald