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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDA66620
Recording details: April 1992
Seldon Hall, Haberdashers' Aske's School, Hertfordshire, United Kingdom
Produced by Arthur Johnson
Engineered by Antony Howell & Robert Menzies
Release date: September 1992
Total duration: 36 minutes 23 seconds

24 Preludes, Op 34
composer
1932/3

Moderato  [1'15]
Allegretto  [1'09]
Andante  [2'21]
Moderato  [2'21]
Allegro vivace  [0'38]
Allegretto  [1'36]
Andante  [1'25]
Allegretto  [1'15]
Presto  [0'52]
Allegretto  [1'04]
Moderato  [1'44]
Adagio  [2'30]
Allegretto  [1'10]
Andantino  [1'09]
Largo  [2'12]
Allegretto  [1'03]
Andantino  [1'33]
Adagio  [2'32]
Moderato  [1'19]
Allegretto  [1'49]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Shostakovich’s 24 Preludes for solo piano were composed within a relatively short space of time during the Winter of 1932/3. Each is dated, and the music would appear to have been written in the order in which they are published, with virtually a Prelude a day at first, from 30 December until 2 March. This was also to be the case with the 24 Preludes and Fugues opus 87, with both works forming cycles in each of the 12 major and minor keys. Although the opus 34 Preludes are often performed separately, or as selections made into a group, the manner of their composition and the cycle of ascending fifths they encompass (the major key, beginning with C, followed by the relative minor: thus, the first is in C major, the second is in A minor; the third in G major, the fourth in E minor, and so on—a process Shostakovich adopted also in Opus 87)—these factors imply they are better perceived as a set, although the composer only recorded selections himself, not a complete cycle.

The 24 Preludes followed the composition of a large amount of incidental and film music, as well as that of the massive opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk District—all written between October 1930 and the autumn of 1932. During this longish time, therefore, Shostakovich had not only written a great deal of orchestral music but also had perforce been away from his own instrument—at least with regard to original compositions. Compared with the ‘public’ nature of the theatre and film music, the Preludes are withdrawn, intimate (as with opus 87, which formed an oasis of ‘private’ writing amidst much offical and film music composed between 1949 and 1951). Although the nature of the Preludes is brief and aphoristic (but unlike Shostakovich’s Opus 13 Aphorisms for piano), they form a link with his very next composition, the First Piano Concerto, which he began a mere four days after completing the Preludes.

Each of these 24 short pieces is clearly defined in mood and character—many of them are only a page in length—but so clear]y distilled is the essence of each one that their memorable individuality is immediately displayed. One should mention that a fair number of these Preludes have been transcribed for forces as different as large orchestra, symphonic band, clarinet and orchestra, and violin and piano. Of the orchestral versions one should perhaps note that of No 14 in E flat minor by Leopold Stokowski, who made his transcription a few weeks after the published set of opus 34 appeared in America; by the end of 1933 his orchestration had been recorded and issued as ‘fill-up’ to Stokowski’s premiere recording of Shostakovich’s First Symphony—odd that the first recording of any of these pieces should be in an arrangement. But whatever the length, and whatever the medium, each is further proof, if it were needed, that Shostakovich was able to distil his genius into the shortest time-span, as well as to fill the vast canvasses of his large-scale symphonic music.

from notes by Robert Matthew-Walker © 1992

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