Notes and Editorial Reviews
Jascha Nemtsov (pn)
PROFIL 9040 (64:23)
Composed in 1933, just before his first piano concerto, Shostakovich’s cycle of preludes displays his intimate, still active engagement with the piano and encompasses the same broad range of moods and technical resources he would apply to his monumental Preludes and Fugues, op. 87, 17 years later. Tuneful and succinct, they include witty, tongue-in-cheek
dances; spiky, ironic pronouncements; Bach-like pastorales; and dark, minor key contemplations—without flexing his muscles or extending formal development. Pianist Nemtsov, a graduate of the Leningrad Conservatory and specialist in 20th-century Russian and Jewish compositions, plays them with an endearing candor and poise. This alone would make this disc noteworthy, but the balance of the program—the first appearance on disc of any music by the neglected composer Vsevolod Zaderatsky—makes it essential.
A detailed biographical entry for Zaderatsky may be found at www.jmi.org.uk/suppressedmusic/newsletter/articles/008.html. In short, Zaderatsky, born in 1891, studied both law and music in Moscow—the latter at the Moscow Conservatory with compositional instruction from Taneyev and Ippolitov-Ivanov. His career seemed on track until the First World War when, conscripted into the army, he lost contact with his wife and son, who emigrated to France. He never heard from them again. After the war, he taught, conducted local orchestras, and composed; but in 1926, he was arrested for the first time, beginning years of imprisonment and persecution that would discredit him and cause the subsequent neglect of his music. Speculation is that Zaderatsky was targeted because in 1915 and 1916 he gave music lessons to the son of Czar Nicolas II. There may have been other reasons. Zaderatsky was imprisoned from 1926–29 and again from 1937–40, but continued to compose even under impossible circumstances. After 1940, he was allowed a career as music instructor in several small towns, finally settling in at the Lvov Conservatory, but his music remained under ban. He died in 1953.
His cycle of preludes dates from 1934, an unexpected interlude of freedom during which time he was able to experience musical life in Moscow; Nemtsov suggests that Zaderatsky might have even heard a performance of Shostakovich’s preludes and been inspired to compose these. There are similarities—the Sixth (in B Minor) essays a halting, haunting introspection very much akin to the younger composer, and the Second (A Minor) has a bit of Shostakovich’s whimsy. As might be expected, there are also traces of Scriabin—in his energetic, if not ecstatic moments—and Mussorgsky’s angst and scene painting. Throughout, there is a counterpoint of delicacy and a deeper emotional drama, as in the stormy 19th (E? Major) and the fantasy of the Fifth (D Major). Nemtsov convincingly brings out the character of each, and in so doing provides us with a tantalizing introduction to this tragic figure. Performances of his large-scale works, such as the Symphony or unfinished Violin Concerto, may be too much to ask for, but one hopes Nemtsov will turn his attention to Zaderatsky’s piano sonatas, which he intriguingly describes as “unusually somber,” with an “extremely harsh harmonic language,” or the later set of Preludes and Fugues.
FANFARE: Art Lange
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