8 Preludes for Piano
Author. Petrograd. House of Arts (exhibition of paintings by B. M. Kustodiev). The cycle was presented in full to his teacher Leonid Nikolayev on 6 September 1921.
D. Shostakovich, Collected Works, Vol.39, Moscow, Muzyka, 1983
RSALA rec. gr. 2, inv. 14
for Piano. Op. 2
The piano prelude genre in Shostakovich’s oeuvre is represented by three opuses, as well as several pieces without opus numbers, written before or soon after he began studying at the conservatory.
The second opus includes eight preludes written in 1919 (No. 1) and 1921 (Nos. 2-8).
- No. 1, G minor. Agitato (September 1919),
- No. 2, G Mixolydian. Andante (June 1921),
- No. 3, E minor. Allegro non troppo e furioso (June1921),
- No. 4, B flat major. Allegretto (June 1921),
- No. 5, A minor. Allegro molto (June 1921),
- No. 6, F minor. Andante (June 1921),
- No. 7, D flat major. Moderato (before 6 September 1921),
- No. 8, D flat major. Allegretto. Prestissimo (before 5 September 1921).
The dating for most of these preludes (Nos. 1-6) is based on an incomplete copy done by an unidentified person (Mariya Shostakovich) and titled “8 Preludes”. The dates for the last two have been reconstructed from indirect evidence: first, on the basis of the fact that Maksimilian Steinberg was shown all the preludes on 6 September 1921, about which there is an entry in his diary, and second, on the basis of the dedicatory inscription of 5 September 1921 in the author’s manuscript of Prelude No. 8.
There are also dedicatory inscriptions in the author’s manuscript of Prelude No. 7, notated in the album of pianist and Shostakovich’s classmate Marianna Gramenitskaya, as well as in the author’s manuscript of Prelude No. 5.
Each of the preludes has a dedication. They were made to artist Boris Mikhaylovich Kustodiyev (Prelude No. 1), the composer’s sister Masha (Mariya Dmitriyevna) Shostakovich (preludes Nos. 2-5) and “N.K.”—Natasha (Natalia Nikolayevna) Kube (preludes Nos. 6-8).
The very appearance of Op. 2 can be related to a collective idea: in his conservatory years, Shostakovich and his colleagues, student composers Georgy Klements and Pavel Feldt, decided to write a cycle of preludes for piano in all 24 keys, eight each. But the work was not finished. There is a holograph, the so-called “Collective Exercise Book”, containing 18 preludes, of which Shostakovich wrote five: in A minor (No. 2), G flat major (No. 3), E minor (No. 4), D flat major (No. 15) and F minor (No. 18).
There is currently no information that could shed light on what came first—the idea for the collective exercise book, or composing the preludes as a separate cycle, but it is clear that when writing in the exercise book, Shostakovich already had completed all the items belonging to the cycle: he wrote No. 1 as early as 1919, Nos. 2-6 in the summer of 1921, and Nos. 7-8 at the end of the summer and beginning of September 1921. The exercise book includes Nos. 2, 3, 5, 6 and 7 (in keeping with the numbering of Op. 2).