Pianist Michail Lifits here offers Shostakovich performances that run somewhat counter to the grimly ironic tone that characterized the composer's postwar work in the Soviet Union. Lifits' rendering of the 24 Preludes for piano, Op. 34, is ideal. These little pieces distill the sharp high spirits of early Shostakovich down to a tight series of gestures, and Lifits finds musical meaning in every small detail. Sample one of the shorter preludes, like No. 20 in C minor, and marvel at the number of shifts in direction Lifits can pack into 43 seconds. These are unusually flexible Shostakovich preludes, with more Chopin than Bach, but with Bachian economy. The Piano Quintet in G minor, Op. 57, was composed at the beginning of World War II. You can dispute the degree to which it reflects this situation, or Shostakovich's ongoing recovery from his denunciation by Stalin's cultural commissars, but what's not in dispute is the brilliant quality of this work, one that shows Shostakovich's abilities as a pianist to the maximum. Lifits shows the brilliance without overwhelming the Szymanowski Quartet, and in all this is a satisfying, high-spirited Shostakovich album, with clear studio sound from the Sendesaal Bremen.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|24 Preludes, Op. 34|
|Piano Quintet in G minor, Op. 57|