Thursday, October 18, 2012

Sviatoslav Richter in Prague (Shostakovitch & Chopin)

In July 1950, Leipzig hosted the grandiose Bach Festival, marking the bicentenary of the death of the great German musician. A large group of musicologists, composers and performers, headed by Dmitri Shostakovitch (1906-1975), arrived in Saxony from the Soviet Union. The organisers from the then German Democratic Republic had invited Shostakovitch not only as an official guest but also to sit on the jury of the Bach interpretation competition. The programme of the concluding evening of the festival included Bach's Concerto in D minor for three pianos and orchestra, which was to be performed by the Russian artists Maria Yudina, Tatiana Nikolayeva (the newly announced winner of the Bach Prize) and Pavel Serebriakov. Since Yudina had injured a finger and was not able to play, in order to save the concert Shostakovitch, a brilliant and dextrous pianist, sat down at the second piano and gave a truly unforgettable performance.
The Leipzig event - conceived on a grand scale given the conditions in the war-ravaged Soviet occupation zone - intrigued Shostakovitch greatly. He was above all impressed by the spirit of Bach's Protestant Germany, with its amiably sober bourgeois musical life reflecting the deep Christian humility of creators and audiences alike. In Leipzig, Shostakovitch resolved to compose a piano cycle of preludes and fugues.
Soon after retuning to Moscow in October 1950, he plunged into work. Originally, he merely wanted to write a cycle of exercices in a polyphonic style, yet the more he thought through his task, the more appealing became the idea of a kind of modern counterpart to Bach's The Well Tempered Piano. Although he knew the task before him was fraught with difficulty, with a resolve typical of the composer he got down to work on 24 Preludes and Fugues, Op. 87, taking pleasure in the fact that following the period of ideological chicaney and the dangerous "failure" of his Symphony N° 9 he could, for a short time at least, drift away from music history and its abstract forms (at that time not having the slightest inkling that the self-appointed communist party culture-arbiters would also hang the label of formalism on to his neo-Bach counterpoint). And since he was not a composer given to suffering from a dearth of ideas and hanging on every note, he managed to complete his magnum opus in February 1951, within a mere eighteen weeks. When composing it, he often consulted piano problems with Tatiana Nikolayeva, many of whose perceptions substquently appeared in the definitive score...
Vít Roubíček, translation Hilda Hearne, from the booklet

Sviatoslav Richter
In Prague
Shostakovitch & Chopin


Dmitri Shostakovitch

24 Preludes and Fugues Op. 87

1 N° 3 in G major. Moderato non troppo - Allegro molto  3:42
2 N° 6 in B minor. Allegretto - Moderato  8:20
3 N° 7 in A minor. Allegro poco moderato - Allegretto  3:02
4 N° 2 in A minor. Allegro - Allegretto  2:15
5 N° 18 in F minor. Moderato - Moderato con moto  7:30
6 N° 4 in E minor. Andante - Adagio  8:01


Frederyk Chopin

Etudes Op. 10

7 N° 1 in C major. Allegro  1:56
8 N° 2 in A minor. Allegro  1:21
9 N° 3 in E major. Lento, ma non troppo  3:58
10 N° 4 in C sharp-minor. Presto  1:48
11 N° 10 in A flat-major. Assai vivace  1:56
12 N° 11 in E flat-major. Allegretto  1:34
13 N° 12 in C minor. Allegro con fuoco  2:22

Etudes, Op. 25

14 N° 5 in E minor. Vivace  3:08
15 N° 6 in G-sharp minor. Allegro  1:51
16 N° 7 in C-sharp minor. Lento  5:24
17 N° 8 in D-flat major. Vivace  1:16
18 N° 11 in A minor. Lento - Allegro con brio  3:29
19 N° 12 in C minor. Molto allegro con fuoco  2:25

10 Polonaise-Fantaisie in A-flat major, Op. 61  11:55


Sviatoslav Richter - p

Recorded in the Dvorak Hall of the Rudolfinum, Prague ; February 21, 1960 [# 7-20] ; November 30, 1956 [# 6] ; & at the Domovina Studio, Prague ; December 3 & 4, 1956 [# 1-5]

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