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Special Event: Alexander Melnikov to Play Shostakovich’s Complete Preludes and Fugues on March 6

February 12, 2016

Alexander Melnikov’s recording of Shostakovich’s Complete Piano Preludes and Fugues made it onto BBC Music Magazine’s list of the “50 Greatest Recordings of All Time;” he now brings this unique three-hour-long program to his Princeton University Concerts debut on Sunday, March 6, 2016 at 2PM in Richardson Auditorium in Alexander Hall. This concert will be the second of two special events offering the rare opportunity to immerse in a complete cycle of music; Mr. Melnikov’s partner Isabelle Faust presented the complete violin sonatas and partitas of J.S. Bach this past November. Mr. Melnikov will perform the 24 Preludes and Fugues in the order of their composition, with two intermissions. In order to enhance this in-depth exploration of these rarely heard works, Princeton Professor Simon Morrison, one of the world’s leading experts on Russian and Soviet music, will untangle the mysteries of these pieces and illuminate their importance, in a class at Taplin Auditorium in Fine Hall on Wednesday, March 2, 2016 7PM – 8:30PM. This class is offered through the Princeton Adult School; to sign up, visit their website or call 609-683-1101.

Although these Preludes and Fugues are quintessential Shostakovich—sometimes sarcastic, sometimes wistful, often politically charged—they are seldom performed or recorded. Both technically and emotionally demanding, they make for quite the daunting cycle, composed during one of the darkest periods in Shostakovich’s life. Yet Mr. Melnikov, a graduate of the Moscow Conservatory and a protégé of the legendary Soviet pianist Sviatoslav Richter, is well poised to confront the history of these pieces and does not shy away from the challenge. He “brings out the searching, quizzical qualities in the music” (The New York Times), and through the widespread success of his performances pulls these works to the forefront of the piano repertoire. Mr. Melnikov marvels that “it must have been something else to forget everything and just write the 24 Preludes and Fugues;” it is certainly something else to forget everything as a listener and fully immerse oneself in this distilled version of the composer’s legacy.

This concert not only presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to truly steep in Shostakovich’s unique sonority live, but it also reaches back to the very core of Western Classical Music. Shostakovich based his cycle on the 48 Preludes and Fugues of J.S. Bach, transposing the concept of the first collection of keyboard pieces in all 24 keys to the twentieth century. Melnikov remarks “when someone listens to this, they would never believe all these fugues are written on one and the same model. The contrasts are so big — they cover the entire spectrum of characters and moods. Whenever I play it, I always try to approach this music from that point of view.” To listen to these works is then both to survey the range of a single composer and instrument, and to experience the living history and evolution of this art form. 


WHEN:  Sunday, March 6, 2016 at 2PM
WHAT: Shostakovich: The Complete Piano Preludes and Fugues, Op. 87
WHERE: Princeton University Concerts, Richardson Auditorium in Alexander Hall, Princeton University
TICKETS: $50, $40, $25 General; $10 Students. Tickets are available online at, by phone at 609-258-9220, or in person two hours prior to the concert at the Richardson Auditorium Box Office.
PHOTOS: Please contact Dasha Koltunyuk at or 609-258-6024


A class in collaboration with the Princeton Adult School.
To sign up, visit or call 609-683-1101.
Wednesday, March 2, 2016 7-8:30PM. Taplin Auditorium in Fine Hall
Class:  $40; Class, plus a concert ticket: $76

In the lead up to this extraordinary concert, Princeton Professor Simon Morrison, one of the world’s leading experts on Russian and Soviet music, will give class members an insider’s knowledge of what to expect from the performance.  This is a rare opportunity to immerse in these rarely heard pieces from Russia’s most controversial composer.

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Dasha (Darya) Koltunyuk
Phone:  609-258-6024