Almost every piece on this 79 minute plus CD is from the Soviet era or penned by Russians. It will quickly become apparent to those who hear these works why such creativity in the Soviet system wasn't limited to only big symphonies and concertos, but also solo works for the piano. Kabalevsky was always jealous of the attention that Shostakovich got during his lifetime. His 3rd Piano Sonata let's you into his rival world and hear, as it were, the argument for the non-Shostakovich side of a living contemporary composer with the same ambitions and aspirations, but with less recognition. I don't know if I would say Kabalevsky's 3rd sonata is less success than Shostakovich here on this album as it is in competition with the Shostakovich 1st and 2nd piano sonatas which are like day and night. Less just say there is some distance between all three works.
Shostakovich's Piano Sonatas are the main feature of this CD. Here they are given great interpretations by Murray McLachlan. The first sonata is problem child born out of Shostakovich's youth. It literally is the first significant work that he wrote after his much acclaimed first symphony. He had some writer's block and takes some notes from Prokofiev's 2nd and 3rd piano sonatas to create something iconoclastic and new for the brave new Soviet nation.
The Shostakovich Piano Sonata No.2 is a wartime work written right after the symphony No.7 "Leningrad." It's opening movement is a bit tedious like Russian play "The Cherry Tree." It is a full blown sonata that is as much in competition with Beethoven's Piano Sonatas as it is with Prokofiev's. The main reward is the third movement which is marked Moderato, but is really "Theme and Variations." Murray McLachlan gives this about the best interpretation one could expect for this work. In short if you don't like this work then another interpretation is probably not going to help. This would be the CD to get currently of both Shostakovich piano sonatas in my opinion.
There are three other works on the CD which I haven't yet talked about. One is by Myaskovsky. It is his Song and Rhapsody. I don't have much to say about this work other than if you like Myaskovsky symphonies then you will probably like this piece. The next is Ronald Stevenson's Recitive and Air on DSCH. This is rarely heard work and is bonus to those that love Dmitri SCHostakovich. Finally there is Shchedrin Concerto for solo piano. A piano concerto for solo piano in nine minutes sounds like an impossible thing. This is a little reminiscent of the Shostakovich 1st, and the Prokofiev 2nd and 3rd piano sonatas with an iconoclastic sound to the piano.
A rewarding CD jammed packed with value. Highly recommended for the Shostakovich Piano Sonatas. The bonus material isn't bad either. Five Stars.