Classical Net

This extremely generously-filled disc is the first of a series from Divine Art highlighting the mostly neglected repertoire of Russian solo piano works, and judging from this initial helping, there is much that one can discover and enjoy.

The only pieces that command a certain popularity are the two sonatas by Shostakovich, so it is no wonder that the album is entitled “Shostkovich and Comrades”. Indeed in one way or another all the composers featured were contemporaries of the great man, and all the music in the programme, not surprisingly reflects the trying artistic times that they and many others like them had to endure.

The only exception in this collection is Ronald Stevenson’s “Recitative and Air”, a piece commissioned by the Union of Soviet Composers to commemorate Shostakovich’s 70 th birthday. By the time the piece was finished, Shostakovich was dead and in the composer’s own words, the work turned out to be a sort of “in memoriam piece”.

The album is a mixture of the late romantic and the modern, but each composition betrays a strong underlying tension of tragedy and doom. Murray McLachlan plays with intensity and affirmation and his razor-sharp articulation helps to make a persuasive case for this challenging music. An auspicious start to what should be a hugely stimulating cycle, with notes and sound which are both first rate.

—Gerald Fenech