Spine Tinglers: John Terauds

John Terauds, the Classical Music Critic for The Toronto Star, weighs in with the first Spine Tingler of the season.

Here’s John:

We can only hope of wining the big lottery once. But people who listen or play can (and should) have one of those spine-tingling musical moments several times in their lifetime.

I work as a critic to put bread on the table, and as a church organist and choirmaster to feed my spiritual side. Between the two, music is everywhere, and, thank goodness, those special moments happen two or three times a year.

I’ve managed to extend one of these recent moments over several months:

Last spring, young Montreal pianist David Jalbert (who begins teaching at University of Ottawa this fall), released two discs containing the full set of Preludes and Fugues, Op. 87, by Dmitri Shostakovich (on the ATMA Classique label).

It’s a remarkable set of pieces, inspired by having been invited to judge a Bach competition in Leipzig. One hears Bach’s influence throughout, yet these pieces contain Shostakovich’s own special genius, as well.

Listening the first time, I made note to go back to the A-Major Fugue, which is basically a set of arpeggiations fashioned into subject, development and counter-subject. Very simple, yet the stacking of the tonal arpeggiations reaches out to encompass the full range of harmonics possible in A-Major, creating something very close to the being-altering fire that consumes Valhalla at the end of Wagner’s Ring.

I’ve played that track over and over. Then I went and bought the score (of all 24 pieces) and still manage to recapture the tingle in my living room every time I play the Fugue myself.

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