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Shostakovich: 24 Preludes and Fugues Op.87

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Album Review

Dmitri Shostakovich's epic series of preludes and fugues for solo piano was inspired by the very composer whom you would immediately suspect — Johann Sebastian Bach. Indeed, the Russian composer was motivated to write this huge work after a visit to Bach's home city Leipzig in 1950; and, in fact, it resurrects the premise behind Bach's "The Well-Tempered Clavier," providing one prelude and fugue for every major and minor key. So having conquered the Bach work on recordings, Keith Jarrett decided to tackle its 20th century sequel in this two-CD set. Looking at it from one angle, this is Jarrett's most impressive technical achievement in the classical repertoire so far. Generally speaking, the Shostakovich is more difficult to play than the other classical works that he had recorded previously, and he is clearly up to all of its sometimes fearsome demands. From an interpretive angle, though, Jarrett doesn't get as much out of this music as, say, the late Russian pianist Tatiana Nikolaeva, who gave the first performances of the work. With Nikolaeva, each note is captured and spotlighted in ever-changing lights. Jarrett is on the hunt for detail, too — the "No. 11," "15," and "17" fugues are particularly invigorating in that respect — yet much of the time, he tends to color things in one way. Part of this impression may be due to the sound of his piano, which is treated with ECM's usual soft-focused cloud of reverb. For Jarrett fans who are following his classical adventures, this could be a most intriguing left turn, but those seeking the definitive recording of the pieces would find Nikolaeva more stimulating. ~ Richard S. Ginell, Rovi

Customer Reviews

An interesting interpretation

I think that this interpretation is worth the buy, bbut it has its faults. The great thing about it is Keith Jarrett's training in jazz gives this album a great take on Shostakovich's rhythms. His great downfall, though, are the dynamics. His pretty much plays two dynamics: forte and mezzo-forte. This really takes away from these great works by Shostakovich.

Controversial but Worthy

Although Jarrett's choices are not for everyone, he did end up with some very compelling moments. Shostakovich's magnum opus for piano, however, is without parallel in the 20th century and should be heard in close proximity with Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier to be properly understood.


Listen loud.


Born: May 8, 1945 in Allentown, PA

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Pianist, composer, and bandleader Keith Jarrett is one of the most prolific, innovative, and iconoclastic musicians to emerge from the late 20th century. As a pianist (though that is by no means the only instrument he plays), he literally changed the conversation in jazz by introducing an entirely new aesthetic regarding solo improvisation in concert. Though capable of playing in a wide variety of styles, Jarrett is deeply grounded in the jazz tradition. He has recorded over 80 albums as a leader...
Full Bio
Shostakovich: 24 Preludes and Fugues Op.87, Keith Jarrett
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  • $24.99
  • Genres: Jazz, Music, Classical
  • Released: Jan 01, 1992

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