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March 3, 2011

Shostakovich and Bach

Recently the accomplished pianist Jenny Lin gave a terrific concert at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.  It consisted of five of Bach's preludes and fugues from The Well-Tempered Clavier, each sandwiched between two of Shostakovich's compositions from 24 Preludes & Fugues--a work that was itself inspired by Bach's Clavier. In other hands than Lin's, this plan might have gone astray, but her arrangement was never wearyingly mechanical: the pieces were not simply matched up by sequence number or key, but instead were paired in whatever way made the most musical sense, so that we could actually hear echoes of style and pacing between the Bach works and the Shostakovich ones.  And, surprisingly, Shostakovich held up to the comparison.  It is not that he is as good as Bach (no one is), but that his inventiveness, his complex simplicity, his feeling for the solo keyboard instrument, and his ability to convert pattern into emotion are worthy of being matched with Bach's in a concert of this sort.  There was no terrible sense of letdown or disjunction when we went from the Leipzig master to the Moscow student: simply a change in voices.

And Jenny Lin's performance was perfect.  Neither self-dramatizing nor overbearing, her playing was precise, strong, and beautiful--just what was needed to let the musical pieces speak for themselves. Brava!
March 3, 2011 9:37 AM | | Comments (0)

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