Shostakovich’s Op 87 represents an intellectual effort that harks all the way back to J.S. Bach, and Melnikov is happy to adopt an intellectual approach of his own in the way he addresses these formidable works.

On the three discs in this set Melnikov plays all the notes you hear, writes the ones you read in the booklet, and answers questions posed by Andreas Staier on the DVD. He does all these things extremely well.He engages with Shostakovich as a figure deserving respect and appreciation from other musicians, eschewing the derision that some have levelled at Shostakovich for writing music they misconstrue as plain boring. If this package is up against any particular hurdle, it is most likely to be what comes across as its rather rarified approach to a composer other sources have been working hard to domesticate.

This is not where you would turn to discover Shostakovich the composer of great music. On the contrary, Shostakovich was drawn to what might easily seem rather a creatively barren subject, yet one which was so important to him that he wrote the whole set in just three and a half months, sparing himself nothing in making full use of his varied ideas and dazzling virtuosity as composer.

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