30 May 2009, Shostakovich 24 Preludes and Fugues, Adelaide South Australia

Graham Strahle | June 02, 2009
Article from:  The Australian
Shostakovich: 24 Preludes and Fugues. Pianist: Roger Woodward. Recitals Australia. Elder Hall, Adelaide, May 30.
ADMIRED since the 1970s as a leading interpreter of contemporary piano music, Roger Woodward can be idiosyncratic when he wanders into mainstream repertoire, which he has done repeatedly through his career.
That’s what makes him interesting.
His present project is a marathon and typifies the personal approach he takes to his instrument.
It involves performing all the 24 preludes and fugues of Bach and Shostakovich in successive nights: two mountains for the keyboard separated by 238 years.
Woodward has done it once before, in San Francisco, now in Adelaide, and will repeat the feat in Nuremberg later this month. …..
….  His interpretations are intellectually strong yet superbly balanced. Rhythmic energy is there in abundance, as may be expected, but so too are poise, control and melodic beauty.
In his Adelaide performance, Woodward’s care over voicing stood out above all. He gave gives a natural, breathing quality to melodic material, bringing themes out from the surrounding texture and making total sense of the music.
The fugues were rapid and utterly clear, kept at an unrelenting tempo to give them tautness and strength.
There was terrific power in the passacaglia-based Prelude No.12 and pure ferocity in its matching Fugue. Woodward served up some pounding force, too, in Prelude and Fugue No. 15.
But he was able to unearth the full gamut of emotion in these pieces: joyousness in the radiant Fugue No.7 and even moments of romantic warmth, in Prelude No.23.
Woodward was in top form and magnificent throughout, showing complete mastery of Shostakovich’s multifaceted contrapuntal art.
It seemed he just couldn’t keep his hands off the Elder Hall’s Bosendorfer grand. Its clear middle register and strong, resonant bass seemed to perpetually fire him up.
Once the cycle was done, and after many in the audience had visibly had their fill of Shostakovich, he was smartly back for three encores: an even more resolutely powerful performance of Prelude and Fugue No.12, and two rapturous Debussy preludes for good measure. 

“fingers and nerves of steel”   Andrew Porter, The New Yorker