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Dmitri Shostakovich – First Recordings
Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)

Twenty-Four Preludes Op. 34 (1932-33)
No. 8 in F minor
No. 14 in E flat minor
No. 15 in D flat minor
No. 16 in B flat minor
No. 17 in A flat minor
No. 18 in F minor
No. 19 in E flat major
No. 22 in G minor
No. 23 in F major
No. 24 in D minor
Three Fantastic Dances Op. 5 (1922)
L’Age d’Or Op. 22 – Polka (piano reduction 1935)
Piano Trio No. 2 in E Op. 67 (1944)
String Quartet No. 3 in F Op. 73 (1946)
A Collection of Children’s Pieces Op. 69
Dmitri Shostakovich (piano)
David Oistrakh (violin) and Miloš Sádlo (cello) and Dmitri Shostakovich (piano) in the Trio
The Beethoven Quartet in the Quartet
Undated [Trio recorded 1947, Quartet ?1960]
SYMPOSIUM 1314 [79.38]


There have been a number of ‘Shostakovich plays Shostakovich’ releases over the past decade. The famous 1947 recording of the Op. 67 Trio has turned up on Supraphon CO 4489 (where it once enjoyed quite a long catalogue life in an 'Oistrakh in Prague' gatefold double LP – it’s not on the Praga CD box of the same name so take care) and also on Revelation RV70006. Allied to these it’s also in Volume One of Doremi’s Oistrakh Collection as well as on Lys and Eclectra. Some of these are now deleted and Symposium adds its own transfer to the lists coupled with items of equal interest.

Admirers of cellist Miloš Sádlo who died in 2003 will welcome the opportunity to hear him in such notable company. As a member of the Czech Trio he had toured Russia and had tried out this trio for the composer who pronounced the performance "all wrong" but in the following year the cellist joined forces with Shostakovich and Oistrakh for a performance at the 1947 Prague Spring and a recording followed soon afterwards. Only one 78 side was taken down, with no alternative takes, exigencies of post-war shortages which make the performance, whilst by no means spotless, all the more remarkable. The original mike placements were rather close so one can hear some of the bowing mechanics, especially Oistrakh’s, and which do impart an unusually acidic quality to his tone and a somewhat hoarse one to Sádlo’s. They also reveal that the no-retake cello harmonics were fearlessly negotiated by Sádlo (whose real surname by the way was Blaha). In the Largo one feels the tense concentration of all three musicians and the grotesque march theme of the finale is laid out with mordant conviction. It’s a fleet, unlingering interpretation and Shostakovich’s pianism is consistently elevated; there are few better examples of it on record.

The ten Preludes he recorded from the Op. 24 set show that on balance he favoured challenging tempi. He brings powerful rhetoric to the E flat minor whilst stressing the lyricism at the heart of the E flat major, whilst burlesque wit courses through the D minor. The Three Fantastic Dances are here with a particularly supercilious and charming Third and the Children’s Pieces are self announced as he plays them. The Quartet No. 3 is played by the Beethoven Quartet, famous interpreters of Shostakovich (they gave the premières of all his quartet bar Nos. 1 and 15, the latter going to the Taneyev) and many other Russian composers. They bring out the play of pizzicato rhythm and deep sonority in the second movement Moderato as well as the contrasting bleakness and sternness of the Adagio, its sense of abstraction emerging powerfully directed. No less than these is their accomplishment in the complex and difficult finale.

The documentation here is rather hit and miss. Symposium utilises Tully Potter for biographical detail on the Beethoven Quartet but otherwise there’s just a rather generic note on Shostakovich and no recording details or dates. The transfers adhere to Symposium’s characteristic principles; retention of a relatively high level of surface noise but limited noise reduction and no harmful loss of high frequencies. Lys’ transfer is quieter.

Jonathan Woolf



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