Tatiana Nikolayeva: Shostakovich
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(Jun 24, 2008)
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Nikolayeva performs this Shostakovich cycle.
Some DVDs are self-recommending; i.e., they offer definitive performances by great artists. Thats the case in this 1992 BBC-derived production of Tatiana Nikolayeva playing Shostakovichs Preludes and Fugues, Op. 87, a work she inspired and which the composer dedicated to her. They met in 1950; Nikolayeva a contestant in a Bach Piano competition, Shostakovich on the jury. Her playing of Bachs music decided the composer to write his own set of Preludes and Fugues, after the masters great work. She was only 26 at the time and in 1992, we see a grandmotherly figure, pudgy, hair in a bun, but also a musician/pianist of the highest order playing a work she knew intimately and recorded often. Furthermore, its a work that arguably is the greatest solo piano work of the 20th century, a work in which Shostakovich laid bare his soul, writing some of his most intimate and moving music.
It would be futile to single out any of these 24 pieces as better than any of the others. They straddle so wide an emotional and pianistic canvas that one can only revel in each piece and listen again and again to discover the linking threads that Shostakovich used to create a work of such all-encompassing depth and drama. Nikolayeva so identifies with this music that one feels her way is the way it must go, that she penetrates Shostakovichs intentions and meaning. So shes as convincing in the innocence of the D-Flat Prelude as she is stunning in that works whirlwind Fugue; as gracefully elegant in the B-flat minors prelude as she is powerful in the granite-like opening of the E-Flat major Prelude. And some of the fugues are played with such intimacy and spontaneity that one might think she was improvising on the spot. A card announcing which work is to be played precedes each of the 24 pieces. The BBC studio set is odd but for the most part unobjectionable. Camera movements are generally unobtrusive, a good thing since watching Nikolayevas facial expressions (terrific intensity) and hands on the keyboard add a special dimension. Great music in a definitive performance--can one ask for more? --Dan Davis
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According to Wikipedia, Shostakovich wrote only one ballet: The Bolt, which premiered in Leningrad in 1931, was jeered by the audience and was not performed again for 74 years. I have not seen The Bolt. I began with this performance by Tatiana Nicolayeva from 1992 playing Shostakovich's Preludes & Fugues. She looks like your average Russian grandmother, but I can only describe her playing as heavenly.
I am now listening to Shostakovich's complete quartets by the Emerson Quartet. Next come the symphonies.
For further information on the DVD read Scott Morrison's excellent review, the leading classical reviewer on this site.