Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
Piano Sonata No. 2 in B minor, Op. 61 (1943) [24:08]
Three Pieces (1919-20) [2:51] A Child’s Exercise Book, Op. 69 (1944-45) [6:41] Murzilka (undated, c. 1944-52?) [0:49]
Five Preludes (1919-21) [6:39] The Limpid Stream – Ballet, Op. 39 (1934-35) [15:51]
rec. Potton Hall, Suffolk, 27-28 November 2005. DDD NAXOS 8.570092 [57:00]
This is yet another fine Shostakovich disc from Konstantin
Scherbakov. With the exception of the second sonata, the
pieces collected on this disc are bagatelles and other
chips from the master's workbench. For Shostakovich's more
significant piano music, you should look first and foremost
to his cycle of 24 preludes and fugues - also recorded
brilliantly by Scherbakov on Naxos 8.554745-46 (see review).
Nonetheless, admirers of Shostakovich should not be put off by
of the fare as each piece, however small, bears its author's
Though the second sonata was written during the Great
Patriotic War, it has little in common with the Seventh
Symphony or the composer's other more public statements
at this time. If you come to this piece expecting grand
statements of tragedy, you are looking in the wrong place.
Or are you? This is introspective music and Scherbakov
wisely does not attempt to find profound proclamations
in this piece. He plays the notes on the page and lets
them do the talking. His first movement has a breezy, bustling
feel to it. The second movement is elusive, and Scherbakov's
touch is so light that you would think he is playing Debussy.
The finale starts with a spare, unharmonised melodic line
picked out by the right hand. Only after a full minute
does the left hand join in to create an enigmatic passacaglia,
and Scherbakov's strongly characterised treatment of each
variation shows a great independence of hands.
After these ruminative sounds comes something lighter
and brighter. The Three Pieces are “big C” Classical in
mood and proportion. The pieces from A Child's Exercise
Book – written for the composer's daughter –are
simple in construction, but there is no condescension in
the writing. The third of these pieces, Sad Tale,
is completely tonally ambiguous and so is the Merry
Tale which follows it. This is trademark Shostakovich.
The Clockwork Doll is genuinely quirky, and my favourite
piece of the set. The final piece, Birthday, begins
with a fanfare reminiscent of the one which opens Shostakovich's Festive
The Five Preludes date from Shostakovich's student days
and were a contribution to a composite set of 24 preludes
he wrote with his fellow students Pavel Feldt and Georgi
Klements. These pieces are really quite wonderful. The
second in particular is so simple in its construction,
and so hushed that it sounds almost like a love scene,
and Sherbakov's gentle touch here is magical.
The disc closes with Shostakovich's piano reduction
of his socialist realist ballet, The Limpid Stream.
Though not in his usual spiky, satirical idiom, this is
still attractive music. The first dance starts like a musical
snuffbox, the second is jaunty – The Dance of the Milkmaid
and the Tractor Driver. Perhaps there is some satire
here after all. The third dance, a waltz like the first,
sounds like it comes from a Fred Astaire movie. Scherbakov
takes great care to shade this pretty, tuneful music. Though
much of the material in this ballet suite sounds an awful
lot like salon music, a great pianist can generate enormous
colour and interest in salon music and Scherbakov is definitely
in that class.
The recorded sound is fine, producing a bright piano
sound which does not hurt these pieces at all. Richard
Whitehouse is the author of the helpful liner notes.
Recommended to fans of Shostakovich and lovers of light
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