chapter  8
24 Pages

Arrangements for Piano Four Hands in Dmitrii Shostakovich’s Creative Work and Performance

ByInna Barsova

The subject of the present chapter cannot be regarded as a matter of primary concern in the musical activities of Dmitrii Shostakovich, since his works contain virtually no original compositions for piano duet that would count as staple repertoire items. Nevertheless, the image of the music-performing Shostakovich can hardly be conceived outside the sphere of four-hand piano playing, both of his own and other composers’ music, sometimes in duo partnerships in private surroundings and occasionally in crowded gatherings. Today, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, we witness how fast the great European tradition of playing the music of the great masters, or that of one’s colleagues in composition, in a duet on one or two pianos has virtually become a thing of the past.1 Dmitrii Shostakovich (like all composers of his generation) was among the last representatives of such a practice, occupying the centre of the incomparably productive atmosphere that could arise from the group performance of his own and others’ compositions on the piano many hands (four hands in most cases). Such piano performances, often of many hours’ duration, given in private houses, conservatoire classes and elsewhere, but certainly not in concert halls, were a hallmark of musical practice in the Russian, or to be more precise Soviet, twentieth century.