Suite in F-Sharp Minor for Two Pianos, op. 6 (1922)
CD: “Shostakovich: Complete Works for Two Pianos and Piano Four Hands”, Luisa Fanti Zurkowskaja, Sabrina Alberti (Dynamic CDS 464)
The suite for two pianos, in four movements and lasting about half an hour, is the first full-length work among Shostakovich’s completed and published ones. It also marks a first (though isolated) attempt at a dramatic, expressive style that Shostakovich would turn to later, particularly in the late 1930s and 1940s:
Laurel Fay notes that Shostakovich composed the suite as a response to the death of his father and dedicated it to his memory, and it is moving as a talented sixteen-year-old’s reaction to the loss of a parent (which plunged his mother, older sister, and himself into financial trouble in those already unstable, post-Revolutionary times). Musically, though, the suite doesn’t have enough ideas and structure to support its larger scale. A broad, tolling theme dominates the opening Prelude to the point of repetitiveness and recurs at key moments in the three subsequent movements as well. (You can hear it at the end of the third-movement excerpt above.) The second movement, the Fantastic Dance, is less ponderous than the first and more musically promising, with an early fugato and a sort of exotic, orientalist episode halfway through. The Nocture and Finale, ten minutes long apiece, have some dramatic sweep but little development. Zurkowskaja and Alberti don’t have a mature piece to work with but their uniformly heavy reading of the suite doesn’t flatter it, especially in the potentially more charming second movement. Overall, the piece is of biographical rather than musical interest.