The towering monument that is the two books of The Well Tempered Klavier by J. S. Bach had stood like a colossus unchallenged at the gates of polyphony for over 200 years. Yes, preludes - especially notable are the sets in every major and minor key by Chopin, Hummel and Kessler - and fugues had been written since. Even Preludes accompanied by Fugues had be penned. But until the 20th Century, seemingly no one of note had dared compose a set of 24 preludes and fugues in the 24 Major and minor keys as Bach had twice done.
Exactly 200 years after the death of Bach, one of the greatest of all Russian composers, Dmitri Shostakovich, was at work on a remarkable set of 24 preludes and fugues, published as his Op 87. This too is a monumental and great work, sadly under-represented in the concerts and recordings of our time.
Within 15 years, another major Russian composer, Rodion Shchedrin, having heard the Shostakovich preludes and fugues, was hard at work on his own very different and equally remarkable set.
Now, a marvelous Norwegian pianist, Joachim Kwetzinsky, has come out with a wonderful CD entitled "Polyphonic Dialogues" alternating pairs of the preludes and fugues from both sets, two by Shchedrin, two by Shostakovich, two more by Shchedrin, and so on. The whole dialogue is surrounded by two unrelated polyphonic works by Shchedrin, like book-ends.
The overall effect is stunning, the performances vibrant, and in this CD we have not only an excellent recording of much of this great music, we have a CD that has been conceived as a wonderfully thought out concert program.
I cannot recommend this hybrid SACD/CD release highly enough.