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Shostakovich's Preludes and Fugues

Shostakovich's Preludes and Fugues

Mark Mazullo
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Shostakovich's Preludes and Fugues
    Book Description:

    This is the first book-length study of Shostakovich's Twenty-Four Preludes and Fugues for piano, Opus 87. Mark Mazullo explains the cultural context in which Shostakovich composed, relates the cycle to piano works (by Bach, Hindemith, and others), and offers individual commentaries on each of the Preludes and Fugues.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-14944-9
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. preface
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  5. Part I Contexts

    • 1 shostakovich and the challenges of interpretation
      (pp. 3-12)

      When it comes to comparisons with language, and to a lesser degree with the visual arts, music has long suffered from a certain inferiority complex. Even while it flaunts its superior mystery, its inevitable abstraction, music cannot seem to shake off the gravitational pull that would forever bind it to its companion arts. Take, for instance, the eternal popularity of subtitles—Beethoven’s “Moonlight” Sonata, Chopin’s “Raindrop” Prelude, Dvořák’s “New World” Symphony. Regardless of their provenance, whether it be popular convention, a publisher, or the composer, such labels steer this music’s reception in multiple realms, from marketing to programming, teaching to...

    • 2 placing the preludes and fugues
      (pp. 13-26)

      The Twenty-Four Preludes and Fugues for Piano were composed during a particularly complex time in Shostakovich’s life, amid conditions that have contributed greatly to the strong interpretive pull described in the previous chapter. Many discussions of the cycle, as we have seen, place it at the heart of the composer’s personal response to the events of the winter and spring of 1948, when Shostakovich, along with several of his peers, was publicly taken to task by the Central Committee of the Communist Party. To be sure, the aftershocks of the first half of 1948 were strong and long-lasting, directly and...

    • 3 The cycle as a whole
      (pp. 27-50)

      The initial flash of inspiration that compelled Shostakovich to compose a cycle of preludes and fugues for piano certainly came from J. S. Bach. Especially in the first two preludes and fugues, but elsewhere in the cycle as well, allusions to Bach’sWell-Tempered Clavieroccupy the foreground. The first sonority in Shostakovich’s cycle—the initial tonic chord of the Prelude in C Major—reproduces the opening harmony and voicing of Bach’s own C Major Prelude from Book I, while turning its arpeggiations into simultaneously sounding chords. The missing arpeggiations come in the next prelude, in A minor, hurled down as...

  6. Part II The Preludes and Fugues

    • 4 personalities in pairs
      (pp. 53-104)

      Few works by Shostakovich better illustrate his own possession of the extraordinary expressive-communicative gifts described by Lydia Ginzburg than the Twenty-Four Preludes and Fugues, Opus 87. In this cycle of miniatures, which nonetheless constitutes his largest single instrumental work, Shostakovich seems determined to catalogue a great diversity of emotions, expressions, and characters. Fully cognizant of his role as a national cultural hero—as both a Pushkin-like chronicler of the Russian character and a modernized (and, when appropriate, “rehabilitated”) artistic representative of the Soviet people—he draws deeply from his creative well to fashion a sweeping human panorama. Despite its intimacy,...

    • 5 slow tendencies
      (pp. 105-152)

      Shostakovich drew upon a wide repertory of expressive markings and indications of articulation and tempo in the Preludes and Fugues, lending the score a dramatic palette to match its epic scope. Among other occasional markings, one encounters a few morendos and dolces, a couple of mae-stosos, a single tranquillo and pesante each, and, in the most fiercely energetic fugues, several marcatissimos. More common are two markings, espressivo and legato (or legato sempre), which appear in more than half the pieces. Their regular presence sheds light on a poetic attitude in the work that is sometimes shadowed, in its reception and...

    • 6 active surfaces
      (pp. 153-193)

      It would be reasonable to argue that the dominant mode of expression in Shostakovich’s Preludes and Fugues is the lugubrious, hesitant, introverted character that I described in the previous chapter. Even the preludes and fugues discussed in this chapter, while grouped under a different rubric altogether, contain moments of harmonic and rhythmic defamiliarization similar to what we encountered in that earlier group. But a cycle of this scope requires variety, of course, and Shostakovich balances out the score’s more expansive aspects with plenty of speed, manic energy, and virtuosic flash. As early as the Prelude and Fugue No. 2 in...

    • 7 completing the cycle
      (pp. 194-236)

      In its final stretch, Shostakovich’s cycle of Preludes and Fugues takes on an increasingly enigmatic, darker-hued character. The Prelude in F Major and the Fugue in G Minor are, for instance, filled to the brim with stops and starts, pointing to an accumulation in the later stages of the cycle of the kinds of halting gestures I discussed in Chapter 5. The mysteriously stalled fragments of the Prelude in E-flat Major—which might suggest a distracted speaker losing his train of thought—also fit with this tendency. And with their direct evocation of the opening of the Symphony No. 11,...

  7. Part III The Living Work of Art

    • 8 The ethics of expression: TOWARDS A PERFORMANCE HISTORY
      (pp. 239-260)

      There are several wonderful opportunities for sentimentalizing in the second, slow movement of Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 2. Performing the concerto once as a faculty soloist with my college’s orchestra, I drew out these moments for their full effect—taking just shy of excessive amounts of time wherever Shostakovich called for a ritenuto, shaping his trademark meandering lines in the boldest of strokes, striving for drastic changes in color and mood between sections. The work rather calls for it: Shostakovich composed it in 1957 as a showpiece for his teenage son Maxim, who was in his final year of study...

  8. NOTES
    (pp. 261-270)
    (pp. 271-272)
    (pp. 273-276)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 277-286)