24 Preludes and Fugues for Piano
December 23 and 28, 1952. Leningrad. Small Hall of the Leningrad Philharmonia. March 1953. Moscow. Small Hall of the Conservatoire. Performed by T. Nikolaeva.
1952 .“Muzgiz” Publishers, Moscow.
Hand-written score in the RNMM (Stack 32, Item 24).
Duration: 2 hours, 32 min.
“He had the idea of writing something like technical exercises in the polyphonic genre...Later, however, he decided to expand his idea and compose something on the lines of the ‘Well-Tempered Clavier’ by J.S.Bach - a major cycle of artistic pieces in polyphonic form and with specific tangible content”.
24 Preludes and Fugues
Dmitri Shostakovich showed an interest in fugues long before Op. 87 was composed. His first step towards writing a polyphonic cycle was the fugues of 1934.
Composition was prompted by Shostakovich’s participation in the Bach celebrations of 1950 held in Leipzig from 23 July to 11 August on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the death of the great German composer (Shostakovich headed the Soviet delegation).
As early as 10 October 1950, the first item (Prelude in C major) in the prelude and fugue collection, as the author called this work, was written.
Shostakovich himself was the first to perform Op. 87, playing it at two sittings of the symphony and chamber music section of the Union of Composers in the spring of 1951.
In the autumn of 1951, on 18 November, what appears to be the first public performance of fragments of the new opus was held, which, however, was not reflected in the programme: four items (Nos. 4, 12, 13, 24), followed by two encores, were performed by the author in a concert in the Small Hall of the Leningrad Philharmonic. Shostakovich soon included separate “small cycles” from this work more than once in his concert programmes.21 Maria Grinberg first performed Preludes and Fugues Nos. 1, 5, 15, 16 and 18 on 14 December 1952 in the Small Hall of the Leningrad
Philharmonic not long before the official premiere of the entire Op. 87 held in the same hall a week later. This premiere was performed by Tatyana Nikolayeva.
The Moscow (as previously the Leningrad) premiere of the entire opus was preceded by the performance of six preludes and fugues included in the programme of Maria Grinberg’s concert held on 27 September 1952, also in the Small Hall of the Conservatory (the author attended the concert).
At the same time as the first concert performances of Op. 87, in December 1951-February 1952, Shostakovich recorded several preludes and fugues at the House of Sound Recording. According to Derek Hulme’s Catalogue, beginning in January 1952, they came out on Soviet gramophone records in separate issues, and later were gathered in the series Shostakovich Plays Shostakovich.
Soon another recording appeared, one done at home on a reel-to-reel tape recorder, for which Shostakovich did the part-writing of Op. 87. ‘I am now doing an arrangement of all the orchestral music for two pianos or in eight hands,’ he wrote to David Oistrakh on 4 July 1952. ‘I want to do arrangements in which not a single note goes missing… Incidentally, that is how I notated almost all my preludes and fugues. My friends and I each played their part. It turned out very well’.
As early as the end of 1952, a two-volume edition of 24 Preludes and Fugues was published by Muzgiz Publishers. The edition of Preludes Nos 7 and 24 in the Supplement to the October issue of Sovetskaya muzyka served as its announcement.
By the end of the 1950s, Shostakovich’s polyphonic opus was more frequently performed at the concerts and became confidently incorporated into pedagogical practice. The list of Russian pianists performing individual preludes and fugues from Op. 87 as early as the 1950s is impressive—in addition to Maria Grinberg and Tatyana Nikolayeva, they included Vladimir Ashkenazy, Lev Vlasenko, Emil Gilels, Evgeny Malinin, Eduard Miansarov, Svyatoslav Richter, Vladimir Sofronitsky, Maria Yudina and several others.
At this same time, individual preludes and fugues from Op. 87 were regularly performed abroad during the guest appearances of Soviet pianists (some of them appeared later on records). Since the mid-1950s, preludes and fugues were repeatedly issued by Western publishers (Boosey&Hawkes and Leeds Music; Edition Peters; and Hans Sikorski). Op. 87 was recorded in full for the first time by Tatyana Nikolayeva in 1962. In 1975, it was issued by RCA as performed by Roger Woodward. In December 1992, BBC showed a film called Nikolayeva Plays Shostakovich, where the work was performed in full.
- No. 1, 5, 24. Gilels E.G. 1955 // Melodia OS 2147,
- No. 3, 6, 7, 2, 18. Richter S.T. 1956 // ULTRAPHON 11 1421-2 101, 1991
- Nikolaeva T.P. 1987 // SUCD 10-00073, 10-00074, 10-00075, 1990
- Jarrett K. 1991 // ECM NEW SERIES 1469/70 437 189-2, 1992
- Petrushansky B.V. 1992 // CDS117 / 1-3, 1993
- Weichert K. 1991-1992 // ACCORD 202032, 1992
- No. 1, 5, 24. Gilels E.G. 1955 // TESTAMENT SBT. 1089, 1996
- No. 1,15. Arrangement for String Quartet R. Dubinsky. Lafayette String Quartet: Elliot-Goldschmid A., Stanis S., Hood J., Highbaugh P. 1991 // DORIAN DOR-90163, 1992
- No. 1-6. Perticaroli S. 1964 // FONITCETRA CDE 1029, 1988
- No. 19, 1, 2, 4, 15. Berman B. 1986 // OTTAVO OTR C38616, 1989
- No. 19, 21, 22. Richter S.T. 1973 // PIRAMID REC./INA 13503, 1991
- No. 1-8, 12-14. Shostakovich D.D. 1952 // REVELATION RV 70001, 1997