Andrey Gugnin is a young, prize-winning Russian pianist clearly on home ground in Shostakovich. Whether the demands are cryptic in the 24 Preludes, ferocious in the First Sonata (a corkscrew, wildly dissonant thriller) or in the powerful and expressive Second Sonata, everything is met with unfaltering assurance, vividness and command.
The 24 Preludes range from virtuoso (No 5), reflective (No 8) and perky (No 18) to the more familiar and whimsical No 24. These are essentially chippings (unlike the more ambitious 24 Preludes and Fugues) from the master’s workshop, while the Second Sonata is surely Shostakovich’s keyboard masterpiece. Emil Gilels, whose magisterial recording of the Second Sonata is formidably authoritative, would surely have been among the first to praise Gugnin’s performance. Finally, there is the Nocturne from the ballet The Limpid Stream, a welcome reminder of a lightness and popularity which, as the excellent accompanying note tells us, ‘survived the condemnation of Stalin and his lackeys’.