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Reviews: Shostakovich: Preludes and Fugues - Ras

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Reviews: 3

Review by Marc P March 1, 2003 (1 of 9 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
Had a chance to listen to this when I auditioned my SACD player. Like most people buying audio there is always some excitement when you see an organ recording. Because even though you don’t really like the music there is always so spectacular sounds coming your way. You all know the kind of stuff I mean, the really mean bass sounds that make your floor tremble. Well like all STS recordings if heard so far this one turned out to be a bit of a disappointment. Basically this is a very, very well recorded album but the music just puts me to sleep.
What would happen if STS made so recordings that were interesting? Well one can only guess because they don’t seem to want to do that. They choose to record drivel that surely can’t really be of interest to anybody but the recording artist and the guy who’s responsible for putting these recordings onto the market.
I understand a lot of audiophiles out there are more into listening to sounds than to music, but surely this won’t suffice for anyone with only the slightest interest in real music.

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Review by beardawgs October 27, 2003 (4 of 4 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
I strongly disagree with Mark P on this. Shostakovich’s Preludes and Fugues for piano solo are one of the most important pieces for the instrument written in the 20th Century. If someone doesn’t like the music, that’s another matter, but if music ‘puts you to sleep’ I wouldn’t necessary blame the performance, and especially not the composer for that.
Inspired by probably the most important piano cycle ever, Bach’s 24 preludes and fugues, Shostakovich (himself a genius orchestrator) wrote his own set, maintaining throughout the flair of the original, and adding incredible variety to each piece that only such a versatile 20th Century composer can give. The pieces itself are exercises in tonality, each in different key. This is pure abstract music, with no extra-musical ideas behind it, it won’t make you cry or laugh, it will fascinate you. You’ll either get hooked immediately, or stay cold. But this IS real music!!!
Now, making an organ transcription form the piano original is a perfectly legitimate approach for this kind of music, having in mind all the usual baroque practices. I am surprised that no one did it before. This organ transcription shades a new light into well known original, and to my ears it is perfectly well done. With more than 300 changes of different organ registers this cannot be boring music! I am personally not very keen on long organ recitals, but if not for sheer fascination with the music, I can listen to this disc over and over again just for its variety. Organist Michiel Ras plays like he has 12 fingers and 4 legs, and his assistant does an equally good job in pulling stops, changing registers and dynamic levels.
The recording is natural, with microphones placed not to close, and capturing the church ambience, especially in MC. Dynamic range is also impressive, and this disc will give your sub-woofer a good run for its money. True, the transcription and the recording tends to favour ‘moody’, even dark approach, which might well be the misconception about the Russian music as a whole, or just a result of using a particularly large instrument with it’s impressive lower range. But with all that low frequencies and dynamic outbursts, if listened at the appropriate level, you’ll keep your neighbours awake as well.
If you are new to Shostakovich’s 24 preludes and fugues I would recommend you should hear the original first, preferably with Tatiana Nikolayeva (or Nikolaieva), for whom the pieces were originally written for (Keith Jarrett on ECM is less idiomatic, but his cool approach works pretty well). Then you will fully appreciate what a great job they did with this transcription (there are only 12 preludes and fugues here, out of original 24, let’s hope the rest will come out soon).

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Review by aubullience March 30, 2014 (1 of 1 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
I'm with beardawgs on this one- if you're a Shostakovich fan and an organ lover (no pun intended), you owe it to yourself to try to track down this disc somewhere (perhaps ebay one day if you keep it as a "followed" entry). These works actually translate nicely to the organ, at least in this case, and like some of the other transcriptions of them- such as for harpsichord by Martynova, also on SACD, for some of the pieces- the different instrumentation expands one's conception and enjoyment of them.

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