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Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906 - 1975)
Preludes and Fugues (24), Op 87 (1951): 1- 9, 12, 15-17, 19
Arranged for wind quintet by Eduard Wesley
Calefax Reed Quintet: Oliver Boekhorn, oboe; Ivar Berix, clarinet; Raaf Hekkema, saxophone; Jelte Althuis, bass clarinet; Alban Wesly, bassoon.
Recorded 5 June 2003, at the Evangelische Kirche, Lienen, Germany.
Notes in English, Français, Nederlands, Deutsche
Photos of the composer and of the artists. Four page survey form.

No one would ever confuse Dmitri Shostakovich with Johann Sebastian Bach, but one rare area of similarity is their composition of keyboard preludes and fugues in the circle of key signatures. And these works both by Bach and Shostakovich have found themselves very agreeable to arrangement for other instrumental groups. One immediately thinks of Dmitri Tsiganov’s arrangements of five of the Shostakovich piano preludes for violin and piano, which have been recorded with great effect by Leonid Kogan, Julian Sitkovetsky, and others.

And here, after a surprisingly long time, are arrangements of the Preludes and Fugues. Not a complete set, unfortunately, only 14 of the 24. One naturally wants to know if these are good arrangements and if they are played effectively, and if they add anything to the music as it stands in its keyboard format. And the answers are yes, yes, and yes! The arrangements are made as well as the composer could have wished and are played with great effect and sensitivity. And, due to the lyrical capability of the wind instruments, many passages take on a new beauty compared with the keyboard version.

An obvious example is the number one in C major which contains long sustained notes and reaches that are all but impossible on the piano and which cannot be performed there without some strain. The woodwinds have the sostenuto and all the notes; the performers can concentrate on the music, not the difficulties, and the result is a revelatory performance of a fine work. The opening chorale in Prelude #19 and the ensuing pedal point contrasted with antic figurations are also very effective in this format. In other places the performers show their familiarity with Shostakovich’s symphonic orchestral style and play with clear awareness of the overall sonority he achieves there, including his occasional bits of satire. There are passages where the contrast between staccato and legato in parallel voices is especially effective. But with all this careful attention to detail and contrast, the players everywhere achieve graceful and effective phrasing and dynamics. The fugues are generally played attacca right after the preludes.

The better you know this music in its keyboard form the more you will enjoy these arrangements, and the exceptionally fine performances they receive here.

Paul Shoemaker


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