With the significance
of the chamber, stage and symphonic
works of Dmitri Shostakovich so self
evident, it is easy to forget that the
great Russian composer was an accomplished
keyboard virtuoso, and poured some of
his most intimate and adventuresome
ideas into his works for piano solo.
This recital by Konstantin Scherbakov
is a treasure trove of delights, performed
to an extremely high standard.
The twenty-four preludes
of opus 34 were clearly modeled after
the similar works of Chopin, right down
to their following of the same key scheme.
Although the likenesses are many, the
music is completely original and varied
in its moods and structures. Most impressive
is the economy of means that Shostakovich
employs to express so wide a range of
emotions and attitudes. Every possible
mindset is expressed from playful to
melancholy, brash to barbaric, lyrical
to thunderous. Scherbakov is a player
with a keen sense of form and style,
and he has technique to burn in some
writing that is certainly knuckle busting.
If one were to seek one word to describe
this set, perhaps ‘refreshing’ would
be the most accurate. Never long, these
little gems are "prick up your
ears" intelligent and refined.
The Aphorisms composed
some years before the preludes are considerably
more far-reaching in their span of ideas.
Here the composer allows his imagination
to run free, and the formal structure
and tonal language is much more liquid
and experimental. Clearly works that
predate Socialist Realism, these are
thought-provoking and stimulating miniatures,
played with great subtlety and creativity
by pianist Scherbakov.
in C major, the Sonata of 1926 shows
the composer at his freewheeling apex.
Sounds explode from the piano: harsh,
angular, florid and occasionally reflective.
The image of a young talent strutting
his stuff and pounding his audience
with music solely on his own terms comes
quickly to mind. Again, Mr. Scherbakov
delivers the goods wrapped up in gold
leaf. He roars and thunders with abandon
and throws off this difficult work with
seemingly effortless ease.
The program closes
with the delightfully elegant Three
Fantastic Dances, one of the few
works written before the composer’s
significant First Symphony to remain
in circulation during his lifetime.
Utterly charming, this is four minutes
of splendid writing and playing.
Naxos give us a recording
that is a little on the bright side,
but given the character of the music,
this is hardly offensive. Program notes
by Richard Whitehouse are concise and
informative. This recital is a fine
alternative to the run-of-the-mill piano
disc, and a worthy addition to any record
shelf. Highly recommended.
see also review
by Colin Clarke