Shostakovich: 24 Preludes and Fugues, Op. 87

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COMPOSERS: Shostakovich
LABELS: ECM Records
ALBUM TITLE: Shostakovich
WORKS: 24 Preludes and Fugues, Op. 87
PERFORMER: Keith Jarret (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 437 1892 (Reissue (1991))
Keith Jarrett’s 1991 recording of

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Shostakovich’s great Op. 87 cycle

makes a welcome return. He had

already recorded Bach’s ‘48’ and

Goldberg Variations for ECM: the

Shostakovich was a logical but

perhaps a more surprising sequel.

In fact Jarrett’s jazz experience

brings some unique insights into the

rhythmic profile of certain individual

pieces, especially the faster fugues. In

fact, his rhythms generally are very

alert and sensitive, aided what seems

to be his clear and rather dry pianism

– though this is rather nullified by

ECM’s soft-focused and reverberant

acoustics. He often brings out

crucial detail, for example in fugues

11 and 17, and the whole sequence

of preludes and fugues between

those numbers seems to contain

his strongest performances in the

cycle, with majestic shaping of the

architecture and a fine responsiveness

to the mercurial changes of mood.

So there are many things to

admire here; but there’s also a

deadening sameness to Jarrett’s

dynamics, which are stuck too much

in the forte to mezzoforte range,

and often a general feeling that he’s

quite some way from penetrating to

the heart of these pieces. In overall

quality I feel this set is comparable

to Konstantin Scherbakov’s bargainpriced

alternative on Naxos, but the benchmark comfortably remains

Tatiana Nikolayeva’s authoritative

Hyperion version. Despite her

sometimes ponderous tempos, she

simply finds so much more warmth,

humanity and profundity in this

music than does any rival.

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Calum MacDonald