MusicWeb International reviews more Classical recordings than any one else.

53,555 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

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

Some items
to consider

£11 post-free anywhere
Normal service resumed


100th birthday of Mieczyslaw Weinberg on December 8, 2019.
Renate Eggbrecht has recorded all 3 violin Sonatas


Recordings of the Month


Beethoven String Quartets

Produzioni Armoniche

Seven Symphonic Poems

Shostakovich VC1 Baiba Skride
Tchaikovsky Symph 5 Nelsons

Vivaldi Violin Concertos



Beethoven Piano Concertos

Stradal Transcriptions

LOSY Note d’oro

Scarlatti Sonatas Vol 2

Support us financially by purchasing this from

Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
Piano Sonata no.1, op.12 [13:03]
24 Preludes, op.34 [35:54]
Piano Sonata no.2, op.61 [28:25]
Nocturne from ‘The Limpid Stream’, op.39 [2:04]
Andrey Gugnin (piano)
rec. 2018, London
HYPERION CDA68267 [79:27]

How long is it since your jaw dropped - I mean, actually dropped? Too long? OK, get hold of this CD and listen to track 6, which contains the fifth of Shostakovich’s 24 Preludes – all 25 seconds of it! I had to check I hadn’t put on a CD of Conlon Nancarrow by mistake, so staggeringly fast and perfect was it. Yes, jaw-on-the-floor time!

However, Andrey Gugnin – the pianist in question – is no mere note-machine. He has a truly transcendental technique, no doubt, but his playing throughout this immensely challenging programme is a source of sheer delight. His characterisation of the preludes – that no.5 is the shortest, but many are less than two minutes long – is so compelling, revealing a performer who understands deeply the well-springs of Shostakovich’s music. To take just two examples, Preludes 14 (Adagio) and 15 (Allegretto): the first is an intense slow movement, that rises to a climax of heroic tragedy; the second, following hot on its heels, is one of those wry ‘fairground’ waltzes you’ll find right through Shostakovich’s output – plus a surprise ending. Gugnin’s interpretations are so vivid that there is an emotional shock in moving abruptly from one piece to the other.

Gugnin was the winner of the 2016 Sydney International Piano Competition, and is not only a solo pianist, but also a chamber musician. He’s just over 30 years old, but his playing has quite remarkable poise and maturity. He has already produced acclaimed recordings of the Shostakovich concertos, and a disc of violin and piano sonatas, with Ioana Cristina Goicea, but with this recording I feel he has moved into the very top rank of today’s pianists.

The Preludes, composed 1932-3, are appropriately framed by Piano Sonatas 1 and 2, from 1926-7 and 1943 respectively. Sonata no.1, we are told in Robert Matthew-Walkers’ mostly thoughtful and informative booklet notes, was originally titled ‘October Symphony’; that description was eventually given to the Symphony no.2, but that fact gives the key to the character of this powerful short work, and its subject matter – the October Revolution of 1917. It is in a single movement, but has clearly defined contrasting sections: a dramatic and stressful opening gives way to a grotesque dance-like episode, strongly reminiscent of Prokofiev. From there, it gradually builds up to a conclusion of almost unequalled violence and discord – clearly a quite different take on the Revolution from the ‘Soviet Realist’ stance of the Second Symphony.

The later sonata is quite a different animal. It is an avowedly memorial work, being dedicated to the memory of one of Shostakovich’s early piano teachers, Leonid Nikolayev, who had died in Tashkent in 1942, having been evacuated there from Moscow. The first movement is an apparently lively movement, with a persistent march-like tread, despite the rapid semiquaver figuration. The spare central Largo is the most obvious expression of Shostakovich’s reflections on Nikolayev’s death. But it is the finale – nearly the length of the first two movements added together – that is by far the most interesting. It is based on the long, hauntingly strange melody presented at the start. Only one hand plays for what seems like an age; but gradually the music turns into a highly unorthodox set of variations on the main theme. (Warning: the tune is a bit of what is known as an ‘ear-worm’!)

Perhaps the highest praise for Gugnin arises from the fact that, throughout these remarkable and highly contrasted works, one mostly forgets about the existence of an ‘interpreter’, so directly does the composer’s voice speak to us. The unobtrusively perfect Hyperion recording helps this impression further.

Compared to the symphonies, concertos and quartets, this is an unfamiliar part of Shostakovich’s huge oeuvre, so this recording has that inherent value; but it is undoubtedly also a confirmation of the arrival of an outstanding talent on the world musical scene.

Gwyn Parry-Jones

Previous review: Dominy Clements (CD. Recording of the Month) Dan Morgan (Download)

Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical

Nimbus Podcast

Obtain 10% discount

Special offer 50% off
15CDs £83 incl. postage

Musicweb sells the following labels

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: See what you will get

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