Tatiana Nikolayeva recorded these twenty-four pieces three times and had become identified with them perhaps more than anything else in her repertory. Yet, for all her insights and abilities, she was never quite on target in this difficult music. Not that she was wayward or weak in her interpretations – no, generally she was compelling, as is Ashkenazy. But neither seems to capture the wide expressive range in these Shostakovich works with quite the insight and chameleonic scope of Konstantin Scherbakov.
Switzerland-based, Russian born Scherbakov studied at the Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory with Lev Naumov and has won a number of prizes in international competitions, including first prize in the 1983 Moscow Rachmaninoff Competition. He plays a lot of Rachmaninoff, and from the evidence here, Naxos or someone would be wise to record him in the concertos or in some of the piano music, for his Shostakovich is impressive. He deftly captures the serenity and conflict in the opening piece, as well as the perkiness and drive of the many livelier ones. Nothing really eludes him: his delineation of contrapuntal lines is always clear and emerges in proper measure with the main thematic material, while his sense for contrast and for interpretation in general is always intelligent and spirited. Try the grim and ultimately triumphant last Prélude to sample his vast expressive range and keen sense for structure and color.
There is a lot of controversy surrounding Shostakovich and his music these days, but his 24 Préludes and Fugues are never cited by musicologists as protest pieces containing hidden messages. Indeed, they are pure music, and if a bit arid, they are quite rewarding, especially to the ear willing to reconcile 20th-Century music with Bachian styles. Scherbakov's take on them here is clearly the way to hear them, and Naxos provides vivid sound and fine notes.
Copyright © 2001, Robert Cummings