Friday, April 10, 2009

Learning More about Shostakovich

Last week when I wrote about Jannie Lo's piano recital on, I discovered how little I knew about the piano music of Dmitri Shostakovich. Lo had concluded her recital with the last (D minor) of his Opus 87 prelude-and-fugue couplings; and, to my chagrin, I discovered that the only piano music I really knew came from the William Kapell recordings of a few of the Opus 34 preludes. Since those preludes were composed in 1932 and 1933, while Opus 87 was composed in 1950 and 1951, they did not make for particularly good preparatory listening.

Fortunately, I can thank Wikipedia for helping me to broaden my listening experience. Opus 87 has its own Wikipedia entry, which, while being up-front about needing a lot more work, is already endowed with some valuable hyperlinks. One is the earsense Web site, which offers rather thorough analytic material, including an index of the fugue subjects. However, for listening experience (particularly in this time of economic hardship), nothing can beat the free downloads of the complete set of preludes and fugues, recorded from a recital given by Denis Plutalov at Watson Hall of the North Carolina School of the Arts on May 23, 2005. I have only made it through the first 21 of the prelude/fugue pairs; but I have found them all to be capable (even if the volume is a bit low). Each pair has its own mp3 file, except for number 23 (F major), where the prelude and fugue have separate files. I had not previously heard of Plutalov, but I found many of the recorded performances he has made available to be fascinating. Among other selections, I plan to listen to his performance of Ferruccio Busoni's transcription of "Siegfried's Funeral March" from Richard Wagner's Götterdämmerung. First, however, I need to bring my head into greater familiarity with late Shostakovich!

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