Shostakovich: Piano Music

Review by: David Hurwitz

Artistic Quality: 10

Sound Quality: 10

This is a brilliant recital, one that reveals just about every facet of Shostakovich’s musical personality in terms of his writing for piano. The novelty for most listeners will be Dances of the Dolls, yet another arrangement of numbers from his film and ballet music, aimed at younger players. Somehow these tunes sound even more charming and witty in their keyboard guise, and Melvin Chen’s clean and rhythmically snappy approach lets their puckish humor speak for itself. Both the Aphorisms and the First Sonata reveal the young, modernist Shostakovich, the latter work in particular. Once again Chen manages to give shape and meaning to music that can sound merely noisy, but he does it without sacrificing the music’s aggressiveness or impetuosity.

With the Second Sonata we encounter the mature composer around the time of the Second World War, when he was creating some of his finest large works. This sonata never has caught on, partly on account of its typically spare textures, but more likely because it’s a very large work (nearly 30 minutes) that ends quietly and enigmatically. Certainly it does not sound in any way lacking in content here. Chen keeps the music interesting, particularly in the long variation finale, which has plenty of contrast and seems perfectly paced. This is music that, given time and a fine performance like this one, will grow on you. So if you like Shostakovich but have not yet warmed to his piano music, try this superbly played and recorded CD. I suspect it will win you over.

Buy Now from Arkiv Music

Recording Details:

Reference Recording: none

DMITRI SHOSTAKOVICH - Dances of Dolls; Ten Aphorisms; Piano Sonatas Nos. 1 & 2

  • Melvin Chen (piano)

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