One of the most grown-up review sites around


Search MusicWeb Here

     
  
 

 

International mailing


  Founder: Len Mullenger             Senior Editor: John Quinn               Contact Seen and Heard here  

Some items
to consider


Nothing but Praise


BrucKner 4 Nelsons
the finest of recent years.

superb BD-A sound

This is a wonderful set


Telemann continues to amaze


A superb disc

Performances to cherish

An extraordinary disc.

rush out and buy this

I favour above all the others

Frank Martin - Exemplary accounts

Asrael Symphony
A major addition


Another Bacewicz winner


match any I’ve heard


An outstanding centenary collection


personable, tuneful, approachable


a very fine Brahms symphony cycle.


music that will be new to most people


telling, tough, thoughtful, emotionally fleet and powerfully recorded


hitherto unrecorded Latvian music

 

REVIEW Plain text for smartphones & printers

Advertising on
Musicweb



Donate and keep us afloat

 

New Releases

Naxos Classical


Nimbus Podcast


Obtain 10% discount


Special offer 50% off

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
(THE Polish label)
Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off


Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing
sample

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
   
Rob Barnett
Senior Editor
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
Editor in Chief
   Vacant
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger


Support us financially by purchasing this from

Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
Twenty-Four Preludes and Fugues, op.87
Tatiana Nikolayeva (piano)
rec. 1987, no venue details given
MELODIYA MELCD1002269 [3 CDs: 167:24]

1950 was the 200th anniversary of the death of Johann Sebastian Bach. Among the commemorative events held that year was an International Piano Competition in Leipzig. Shostakovich was chosen as a jury member to judge the best Bach performance. The Russian pianist Tatiana Nikolayeva (1924-1993) won hands down for her rendition of Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier. Her sublime and outstanding playing inspired Shostakovich to compose his own preludes and fugues, twenty-four in all. They were written in a short space of time between October 1950 and February 1951. The cycle was dedicated to Nikolayeva, who premiered them in Leningrad in December 1952. Boris Mukosey in his booklet notes says of the works that they are ‘the greatest achievement of the 20th century polyphonic music, a worthy continuation of the tremendous tradition laid down by Johann Sebastian Bach’.
 
Nikolayeva was to record the Shostakovich cycle three times, the earliest being in the early nineteen-sixties. I couldn’t find any evidence that this reading has ever surfaced on CD, but if others know better I’d be keen to know. The final cycle was recorded for Hyperion in 1990, and I have not been fortunate enough to hear it as yet. The cycle under scrutiny here derives from 1987, and has had several incarnations on CD, most notably with BMG/Melodiya (long since deleted), and on Regis, under licence, released in 2003. I have read several criticisms of this 1980s traversal: that it is dry and sonically harsh. This is not the case with this new re-mastering by Melodiya, which I find is in ideal sound. My research also threw up a DVD of the pianist performing the complete cycle on Medici Arts, which I would love to see.

There was a close association between pianist and composer, and she witnessed Shostakovich in the act of composition, hearing his own pianistic renditions as they emerged. They collaborated together for the premiere in 1952. She was thus a formative influence on the performing tradition of the opus. Nikolayeva’s approach to the cycle had evolved somewhat since her first LPs in 1962. She wanted to set down her fresh thoughts and insights in a new recording in 1987, incorporating, amongst other things, some tempi modifications.

Conferring a wealth of imaginative insights on each of the Preludes and Fugues, Nikolayeva clearly has an intellectual grasp of these works. Phrasing and dynamics are judiciously chosen. With transparency of articulation, she deftly teases out the polyphonic strands of the fugues. Pedalling is at all times discreet, with no smudging of harmonic shifts. One instinctively feels that she has this music in her blood and is able to penetrate to the core of each piece, encompassing the vast spectrum of mood-changes. She captures the dark and pensive character of the C minor Prelude, with its Fugue emerging from total simplicity. The D minor opens in declamatory style ushering in dramatic intent. Nikolayeva achieves beautiful voicing of chords in the C major, and dexterous filigree in the A minor Prelude. The A major Prelude for me shows, more than any of the others, the Bachian influence.

As I have said, these Melodiya re-masterings bring out the warmth of the playing. The ambience is sympathetic to the listener allowing the detail of the, at times, dense harmonic writing to be discerned with clarity. This recording has certainly won me over.

Stephen Greenbank
 
Footnote
Grateful to Stephen Greenbank for his review of this reissue. He may wish to know that her first recording, made in the early 1960s, has indeed been available on CD. It’s the best of her three in my opinion. My collection is still in storage and I can’t remember the name of the label, but it doesn’t matter, because it is some sort of Russian bootleg available only periodically from HMV Japan. It’s the same label that once put out a huge set of all the editions of all the Bruckner symphonies. It’s supposed to be located in Moscow I think but my Russian contacts can find no trace of it. The Nikolayeva is clearly from the original master tapes; I heard a set of the Soviet LPs once and they were pressed out of old poker chips.  

Donald Clarke