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Shostakovich & Bridge Piano Sonatas, Published June 2021
The Piano Sonatas of Dmitry Shostakovich and Frank Bridge were created while the world was in turmoil.
During the second world war, evacuated and sick, Shostakovich seemed to be holding on to sanity through frenzied composing. He wrote his Piano Sonata quickly between the 7th and the 8th Symphonies, and premiered it himself in Moscow soon after. If in the late 30's his music, pummeled by Stalinist disapproval, was perceived as avant-garde, by 1943 its neoclassical clarity was beyond reproach.
Twenty years earlier, Bridge was grappling with a changing world and growing dissatisfied with his pleasing late-Romantic style. In the aftermath of the First World War he spent three years completing only one work, his Piano Sonata, a Cri de Coeur considered his artistic turning point. The Sonata was premiered in London in 1925, by Dame Myra Hess. Passionate and complex, Bridge's new music estranged him from the once-adoring public and the musical establishment.
There is no direct connection between Shostakovich and Bridge. At the 1960 London premiere of his cello concerto, Shostakovich met composer Benjamin Britten; the two would have known of each other for years, and remained life-long friends. This (and perhaps also Britten's well known work, Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge) may be the closest Shostakovich would come to know of Bridge, who was Britten's composition teacher and mentor.
In spite of their different styles, the two Sonatas resonate in their creators' masterful handling of form and texture, and their inscription to the memory of dear friends lost to war. Shostakovich and Bridge wrote other pieces which dealt more explicitly with loss. Nevertheless their Piano Sonatas, somber reflections on the human condition, bear witness to the ravages of war.