A Conversation with Bach
It’s an age-old question…”If you could have a conversation with any composer, who would it be?”
The answer, at least for Dmitri Shostakovich. Â Rather than simply speculate about the possibility, Shostakovich took it one step further and actually had the conversation. Â It was 195o. Â The 44-year-old Russian-born composer had been invited to adjudicate at the firstÂ International Johann Sebastian Bach Competition in Leipzig. Â (It will next held in July, 2014) Â Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier so impressed Shostakovich, that he composed his own cycle of piano preludes and fugues in all 24 keys.
So where is this conversation, you ask? Â It’s on a new recording of the Bach Brandenburg Concertos by Ensemble Caprice. Â Conductor Mathias Maute explained that the conversation came about in the Shostakovich preludes and fugue he selected for this recording. Â He orchestrated them so as to open a portal between the 18th and 20th-century to allow Dmitri and Johann to converse with each other and, ultimately, with us. Â Each Brandenburg is preceded by one of the Shostakovich preludes from Op. 87, with the exception of the first, for which Maute chose one of the fugues.
I hope other present-day musicians follow this example in the future. Â I can think of no better way to show 21st-century listeners how music of the past can speak to us today.
WatchÂ Dmitri Ashkenazy play the Shostakovich Prelude and Fugue, Op. 87