Melvin Chen

Shostakovich: Piano Sonatas Nos. 1 & 2; Aphorisms; Dances of the Dolls

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Melvin Chen makes Shostakovich rock. Not so much in the opening Dances of the Dolls -- seven pieces of sugar and spice and everything nice -- but from there on until the end of this all-Shostakovich disc from Bridge, Chen rips loose. With a steely fingered technique, a muscular attack, and indomitable stamina, Chen turns in a recital that may just singe your eyebrows. His Ten Aphorisms are sly, subversive, seductive, and sometimes cruel, while his single-movement Piano Sonata No. 1 moves past cruel and into pitiless and violent. When Shostakovich played the First Sonata, it is said he broke hammers and strings in the instrument and left blood on the keyboard and Chen seems likely to duplicate the feat; it sounds like the piano is being splintered. The three-movement Second Sonata is not quite as vicious, but its cumulative impact is even more devastating. Listen to the buildup of tension in the enormous closing movement that then pulls back into space and silence. Recorded in sound so loud your fillings will shake, Chen's Shostakovich demands to be heard.

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