by Ian MacDonald
THE NEW SHOSTAKOVICH - I want my own copy!
July 28th 1995
Chris Confessore asks whether there are plans for another printing of The New Shostakovich. The answer is Yes - but not for two or three years. The original sold out (6,000 copies) several years ago, and the rights have reverted to me. When I've finished my current project, I intend to update the book for a second publication (probably in 1998 and probably with Jonathan Cape).
Op. 87 Recordings
July 22nd 1995
Frank Dudley Berry refers to "Nikolayeva's version" (Hyperion). Other correspondents have mentioned her (superior) 1987 version on Melodiya. There is, in fact, an even better Nikolayeva recording made, also for Melodiya, in 1962. Shostakovich was present at the 1962 sessions and we can therefore be fairly certain that - regardless of whether any of her readings correspond to their metronome markings in the score - nothing Nikolayeva then did by way of tempo raised any basic questions so far as the composer was concerned. In fact, Nikolayeva's interpretation of Opus 87 was formed "at Shostakovich's elbow" as its individual numbers were composed, and her tempos for the cycle do not vary significantly among the three versions she recorded over thirty years. Her performance of Bach's 48 was the immediate inspiration for Opus 87 and each piece was 'played over' by her under the composer's supervision the day after it was finished. Shostakovich always regarded her reading as, if not canonical, then as one he approved and commended. So far as tempo goes, his own recordings coincide with Nikolayeva's rather than those of Keith Jarrett, who (the C major aside) sticks closely to the metronome markings, yet fails to get to the heart of the music.
Kondrashin's Shostakovich 8th on Praga
July 18th 1995
Mark Haxthausen asks whether this particular "take" of Kondrashin's interpretation is worth buying. A concert performance recorded in Prague a year after the 1968 Soviet invasion, it's angry (in solidarity with the audience) and very fast - 17 minutes shorter than Maxim Shostakovich's version on Collins Classics! Ensemble is a bit ragged and string tuning in the first movement is poor, but those who don't mind rough edges if the performance is emotionally convincing will probably be able to forgive this. The trumpet-led trio in the third movement is particularly good - frightening and funny at the same time. The sound is vivid and the dynamic is so lively that the engineers keep having to turn down the gain as the concert proceeds. Not a first choice but worth exploring if you want two or three versions of the symphony. Interesting notes by Pierre Barbier.