(Dis)Arrangements 3: Shostakovich Preludes

Grant Chu Covell

[March 2014.]


To accompany their Brandenburg Concerto release (Analekta AN 2 9996-7), Ensemble Caprice’s director Matthias Maute arranged six Shostakovich preludes (Nos. 2, 4, 5, 7, 11 and 18) and one fugue (No. 7) from Op. 87 in complementary instrumentation. The A major fugue (Op. 87, No. 7) precedes Brandenburg No. 1, and functions as a neo-classical concerto grosso with its strange keys and twists. It doesn’t sound like Shostakovich – more like polytonal Rameau. Performed on period instruments, these bizarre arrangements delight. Op. 87, No. 2 played by harpsichord alone prefaces Brandenburg No. 5. Once the shock settles, the astonishing period timbres of recorder and nasal strings satisfy immensely. These are wonderful Bach performances: lively and clear with propulsive rhythms and precisely modulated dynamics. While some might find them mannered, I hear details I’ve never heard before.


The Calefax Reed Quintet (Oliver Boekhoorn, oboe, Ivar Berix, clarinet, Raaf Hekkema, saxophone, Jelte Althuis, bass clarinet, and Alban Wesly, bassoon) tackle an assortment of preludes and fugues from Op. 87 (1951) on MDG 619 1185-2. They play Eduard Wesly’s 1993 arrangement (revised in 2000) which presents Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 15, 16, 17, 19 and 12. Granted that this is an ambitious undertaking, yet even with the putative seriousness and Bach references, it’s as if these moments have been sketched in crayon. Attempting to sidestep formalism, these acidulous works cry out for piano. Fans of wind ensembles will have no qualms.


White Nights: Viola music from Saint Petersburg, Vol. 1” offers Tatjana Masurenko, viola, with Roglit Ishay, piano, in seven Op. 34 prelude arrangements by E. Strachov: Nos. 10, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 and 24 (Profil CD PH10029). Nicely played and sensible in this format, the melodic lines and aggressive motifs fit the viola nicely and rather more dynamically than the sleepy Glinka Sonata that follows. The remainder of the program includes works by Glazunov, Stravinsky, Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov’s bold Dance of the Buffoons from Snow Maiden.


In the Family: Ronald Barron, trombone” (Boston Brass Series BB1004) presents Eight Preludes from Op. 34 (Nos. 3, 6, 10, 11, 15, 16, 19 and 24) arranged by Douglas Yeo for two trombones (Ronald Barron and Douglas Yeo). The biting staccato doesn’t quite work. Long melodies and dance gestures (waltzes, etc.) do. I got more out of Harold Shapero’s genial In The Family (1991), for flute and trombone, and Roger Kellaway’s semi-serial, semi-jazzy Esque (1971-2) for contrabass and trombone. Other works are by Frank Campo, Ralph Vaughan-Williams, and Charles Small.


Mikhail Bezverkhny alternates violin and viola with Timur Sergeyenya at the piano on a two-disc collection with the Violin Sonata, Op. 134 (1968), the Viola Sonata, Op. 147 (1975), and two versions of Op. 34 (Northern Flowers NF/PMA 9921/9922). Sergeyenya takes all 24 preludes alone, then joins with Bezverkhny on violin for four groupings which eventually encompass all of Op. 34. All three of Dmitri Tzyganov’s prelude sets are offered (Nos. 10, 15, 16 and 24; Nos. 2, 6, 12, 13, 17, 18, 19, 21, 22 and 20; and Nos. 1, 3, 8, 11 and 5), plus a final sequence arranged by Sergeyenya to cover the missing numbers (4, 7, 9, 14 and 23). Preludes 10 and 13 are immensely effective in this configuration. Of course the Viola Sonata concludes the program.


On violin, Julian Rachlin provides Tzyganov’s largest collection (Nos. 2, 6, 12, 13, 17, 18, 19, 21, 22 and 20) with Itamar Golan supporting at the piano (Warner Classics 2564 61949-2). They execute dramatically, as if excerpted from a piano concerto or ballet score. Before Rachlin switches to viola for a very dark Op. 147 sonata, they provide a lively Beethoven Op. 30, No. 2.


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