Beauty revealed in simplicity is main pleasure of A Major Prelude and Fugue by Dmitri Shostakovich
It's been three years since the CBC presented a recital of all 24 Preludes and Fugues Dmitri Shostakovich wrote in a burst of creative inspiration after a visit to Leipzig to adjudicate at a Bach competition in 1950. Known as his Op. 87, the pieces follow Bach's chromatic order of major and minor keys from The Well Tempered Clavier. Much of the musical structure is also similar, but rendered in Shostakovich's language.
That Glenn Gould Studio presentation, shared by three pianists -- Shoko Inoue, Heather Schmidt and David Jalbert -- was a revelation to me. It inspired Jalbert to record the whole set, which came out in 2008 on the ATMA Classique label. I started playing the pieces myself and, the more I looked at what Shostakovich did, the more I marvelled at his creative mind.
As you would expect, most of the pieces come in darkish hues. But there are some sunnier major keys that clearly seduced the composer into smiling. My favourite of those is A Major, for Prelude and Fugue No. 7.
The Prelude is straight melody underlined by chord, running in dialogue between right and left hands. The three-part Fugue arpeggiates the tonic A Major chord in the subject, giving it a haunting, repetitive shimmer. Both are stunningly simple, and far too short, giving them the extra appeal of something snatched away before it can be fully savoured.
David Jalbert recorded the Prelude and Fugue in A Major, Op. 87, No. 7, last week, for YouTube: