Shostakovich P&F Scherbakov/Naxos

Review by: Jed Distler

Artistic Quality: 10

Sound Quality: 10

Konstantin Scherbakov’s 24 Shostakovich Preludes and Fugues leapfrog to the head of a small yet distinguished class on disc, whose valedictorians include Tatiana Nikolaeva and Vladimir Ashkenazy. Time and again I am struck by expressive and textural novelties that inevitably result from Scherbakov’s fastidious adherence to Shostakovich’s markings. The pianist connects the A minor Prelude’s scurrying 16th-notes with a seamless legato that still manages to allow each one to speak softly. He treats the D major Prelude’s right-hand arpeggiated chords in a slightly detached manner in order to offset the left hand’s cello-like legato line. In the F-sharp minor Fugue Scherbakov takes special care to differentiate the levels of soft dynamics. He maintains Fugue No. 15’s marcatissimo directive with unyielding vehemence, while effortlessly clarifying the difficult-to-disentangle voices.

Those familiar with Nikolaeva’s freer treatment of the 16th fugue’s elaborate subject will be surprised at the profile and contrast it acquires when played in strict time, as Scherbakov does. As a result, the uneven duplets truly stand out from the even ones. On the other hand, the 14th Prelude’s tremolos sometimes threaten to cover the melodic material. Here both Nikolaeva and the composer relegate these tremolos to a spooky background murmur, and make more of the motto theme’s tenutos. And Scherbakov sometimes plays down Shostakovich’s edgy humor. Yet these quibbles are about aesthetic choices, not interpretive faults, and really don’t matter in the larger context of Scherbakov’s achievement. His interpretations are thought out, deeply pondered, prepared to the nth degree, and played with a perfect fusion of technique and soul. Even listeners who consider these works arid and somewhat pedantic will change their minds after hearing Scherbakov. A triumph.

Buy Now from Arkiv Music

Recording Details:

Reference Recording: This one, Ashkenazy (Decca)

DMITRI SHOSTAKOVICH - 24 Preludes & Fugues Op. 87

  • Konstantin Scherbakov (piano)

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