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24 Preludes, Op 34
composer
1932/3

Recordings
'Shostakovich: Three Fantastic Dances, 24 Preludes & Piano Sonata No 2' (CDA66620)
Shostakovich: Three Fantastic Dances, 24 Preludes & Piano Sonata No 2
'Harriet Cohen – The complete solo studio recordings' (APR7304)
Harriet Cohen – The complete solo studio recordings
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Details
No 01: Moderato
No 02: Allegretto
No 03: Andante
No 04: Moderato
No 05: Allegro vivace
No 06: Allegretto
No 07: Andante
No 08: Allegretto
No 09: Presto
No 10: Moderato non troppo
No 11: Allegretto
No 12: Allegro non troppo
No 13: Moderato
No 14: Adagio
No 15: Allegretto
No 16: Andantino
No 17: Largo
No 18: Allegretto
No 19: Andantino
No 20: Allegretto furioso
No 21: Allegretto poco moderato
No 22: Adagio
No 23: Moderato
No 24: Allegretto

24 Preludes, Op 34
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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 Compared with the ‘public’ nature of the theatre and film music, the Preludes are withdrawn, intimate (as with opus 87, which formed an oasis of ‘private’ writing amidst much offical and film music composed between 1949 and 1951).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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Details for CDA66620 track 22
Andantino
Artists
ISRC
GB-AJY-92-62022
Duration
1'33
Recording date
19 April 1992
Recording venue
Seldon Hall, Haberdashers' Aske's School, Hertfordshire, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Arthur Johnson
Recording engineer
Antony Howell & Robert Menzies
Hyperion usage
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