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Review: Twenty Four Preludes and Fugues on Dmitri Shostakovich, by Joanna Boulter

Dr R V Bailey, Second Light Newsletter July 2007

...first full length collection. It's an interesting work, based not on letters but on 'glimpses' of Shostakovich's life quoted in a review.'s a sequence, attempting to catch the musical moods of these glimpses. Its context is less domestic and more widely political, encompassing as it does the desperate sadness and terrors of a totalitarian regime.

Boulter writes from a deep understanding of the life and circumstances of her subject. The fragility of existence in early C20 Russia - the fierce cold, the terrible contemporary events, the suspicion and danger: these are the notes of her preludes and fugues. Despite the suggestions of the title, there is nothing static or repetitive here. Technically adroit, she uses a wide variety of verse forms to suggest mood - making, for instance, telling use of the claustrophobic intensity of the villanelle or the sonnet, as well as the simplicity of Prelude quasi madrigal, and the palimpsest intricacy of Double Fugue. She describes the forced secrecy - the 'necessary illusions' of the revolution, its sins, with musical intensity, allied with a kind of lyrical ease.

This is an ambitious work, courageous in idea and skilful in execution, a collection that drives one back to a hard history and a great man. It will horrify and inspire you. Don't miss it.