Sunday, 24 June 2012

Melnikov plays Shostakovich

Purely on an impulse, I bought the new 2-CD set of Shostakovich's 24 Preludes & Fugues played by Alexander Melnikov. I have always enjoyed Melnikov's playing, and I find much of Shostakovich's music fascinating. I did not, however, expect to enjoy this music quite as much as I am (though I am only up to P&F number 12, so far). This really is enjoyable. Any collection of 24 preludes and fugues for keyboard will end up being a kind of homage to J.S.Bach, of course. But Shostakovich's homage really is something. A highly serendipitous choice by me, for a change.

Melnikov's playing here seems to me to be examplary, with a wide palette of sound and mood. I do not know the music well enough to compare Melnikov with others; but this is certainly playing I shall listen to over and over again. 20th century Russia, for all its political faults and tribulations, probably produced more world-class pianists and violinists than the rest of the world put together. And Melnikov is certainly a world-class pianist.

Difficult to understand why these preludes and fugues are not better known and played more often. Such magnificent music should be heard. The 1950s onwards was not, of course, a good period in which to write tonal music, with so many critics, movers and shakers pushing the likes of Berio, Boulez, Stockhausen, et al. And the political climate in the Western world was somewhat hostile to Russians (unless they were emigrés who abandoned their homeland). However, the barometer has been rising and rising for Dmitri Shostakovich – and hopefully it will go on rising, since he wrote much magnificent music. The Melnikov recording is superb, helped by my new Quad loudspeakers installed this morning, with new cables.


Martin White said...

One of the reasons is that they are very very difficult to play. Not to say that the Bach 48 are easy but as a reasonably competent amateur pianist I can get my hands around most of them, but only perhaps four of the Shostakovich P&Fs. Each one also typically lasts about 10 minutes. To me Tatiana Nikolayeva is matchless in this music. Try and see what I mean.

Harry Collier said...

Thanks for this, Martin. Indeed, one day I'll have to acquire the classic Tatiana as well. In the meantime, I'm slowly digesting all 24 with Melnikov as a good guide.