Gustav Fenyo

City Halls, Glasgow

Keith Bruce


THE Preludes and Fugues of J S Bach and Dmitri Shostakovich could scarcely be more closely intertwined. Exactly 200 years after Bach died, Shostakovich heard young pianist Tatyana Nikolayeva play at the first international Bach competition in Leipzig, which he had been asked to judge, and began writing his own 24 responses, which she championed until her death after suffering a cerebral haemorrhage during a performance of them on America’s West Coast 25 years ago.

An opportunity to hear the works played together, as Glasgow-domiciled Hungarian Gustav Fenyo is doing over a series of five recitals in the bespoke environment of the City Halls Recital Room, is not to be missed, which accounts for the full house for the second of them on Wednesday evening.

Fenyo has spent more time working in his native land and less in his adopted home of late, but he clearly still has a loyal fan-base. On Bach his style might sometimes seem a little sober or austere. Our relationship with the Baroque has shifted a bit from the precision, keyboard-mapping of the earlier years of historically-informed performance, and Fenyo does hark back to an era before the new looseness.

On the Shostakovich, although his manner does not change, he finds marvellous dynamic shading and expressiveness. Inspired by Bach’s more technical exercises they may be (and Fenyo will play all of both books of The Well-Tempered Clavier by the close of May 22), but it was also easy to hear the influence of Debussy in some of these pieces after listening to so much of that composer’s piano works in the centenary year of his death.

There must be few things that sound more Russian, however, than the repeated figure in the Fugue of No. 6 in B Minor, and while the Prelude of No.9 in E Major, which concluded this concert, could be no-one but Shostakovich, appropriately the Fugue that derives from it is the most Bach-like.