Zak on Roger Woodward’s DSCH recordings

I thought it might be interesting for ASQ fans out there to explain a little bit why Roger Woodward’s recording of the 24 Preludes & Fugues by Shostakovich was the inspiration behind my transcriptions for string quartet.

Before we started our Shostakovich cycle recording project we were discussing how to organize each of the discs. We realized early on that even with all 15 string quartets and the Piano Quintet, we would still have some space for more material. It was at this moment in the discussion process that Roger Woodward’s recording of the 24 Preludes & Fugue was introduced.

The ASQ was in the car driving through up-state New York when Sandy popped in this recording that Roger had given him earlier in the week. We literally listened to both discs from beginning to end and 24 Preludes & Fugues later, I was already making mental notes to myself which ones I wanted to transcribe for string quartet.

When Roger heard that I was in the process of transcribing them for string quartet he immediately told me, “You MUST do the one in D-flat Major!” I totally agreed…it’s one of the most difficult in the set but also quite effective.

Listening to Roger’s recording again reminds me of why I was so taken by these pieces. Aside from the fact that this is an amazing masterpiece, Roger’s interpretation of these Preludes & Fugues are practically ideal. My transriptions for string quartet are based on Roger’s recording and I don’t think you will find a complete set out there that is as emotionally and technically effective as this one.

I listened to several recordings when I was doing the transcriptions and I always kept coming back to Roger’s. Recordings by Tatiana Nikolayeva, Keith Jarrett, Sviatoslav Richter and even a few by Dimitri Shostakovich himself were deffinitely in the rotation but it was always Roger Woodwards voicing and interpretation that I kept coming back to.

I cannot recommend this recording enough. It’s definitely one of my desert island picks!

Dmitri Shostakovich
24 Preludes and Fugues, Op. 87
Roger Woodward, piano

– Zak

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Vutu Nguyen says:

    The first time I heard the ASQ’s transcription of the D-flat major Prelude & Fugue was live at Herbst Theatre in San Francisco. It was a religious experience to say the least and one of the most heightened musical experiences of my life. One of the highlights was when Zak popped a string – a feat that Shostakovich would have undoubtedly appreciated!

    Since that day I have been inspired to learn this piece and I have studied both ASQ’s recording and Roger Woodward’s recording in great detail. While both recordings deserve to be on your deserted island, the ASQ’s recording was detrimental to the early stages of analyzing the fugue for me. The clarity of the different voices and their entries, countersubjects, codettas, inversions, stretti, augmentations, etc. are convincingly planned out for the ear to digest. The ASQ’s recording is a must-hear for any pianist studying this work.

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