I first heard Shostakovich’s Three Fantastic Dances at school when a more senior pianist played them. I guess they’re frequently offered to pianists around Grade 8 and I indeed had a go at them a little later. In the 30+ years since then I’ve occasionally got them off the shelves and had another look without being particularly struck by them. However the other week I did and for some weird reason was captivated.
I read that he wrote them as a 16-year old (or maybe 14-year old – my research on google throws up both possibilities). He was clearly a prodigy – his first symphony was completed when he was 19 and it gets performed and recorded regularly.
Pianistically the dances have their tricky bars – No. 1 has some leaps up the keyboard, No. 2 has four bars where the hands leap in opposite directions and No. 3 has a few chromatic bars not unlike Chopin Op.10 No. 2.
Above all Shostakovich’s humour, quirkiness and individuality are clearly present in such an early work. Although if we are to think of his later life and compositions there is much more to the man and his music than this.