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Discussion: Shostakovich: Complete String Quartets Vol. 2 - Mandelring Quartett

Posts: 8

Post by krisjan October 20, 2007 (1 of 8)
I'm starting this discussion for two reason: one, I consitently refer to the quartet as the "Marderling" in my review when I know full well it is the Mandelring. I apologize for that. Two (and most importantly), I wanted to bring this ongoing set to the attention of all music lovers. Both performances and sound are magnificent. I think this group beats the original Borodin (on EMI analog RBCD) and the DG RBCD Emersons (recorded live) by a good margin. Both of those RBCD sets have gotten high praise over the years with the Emerson getting awards. But the sheer humanity of the Mandelring performances win out for me. The sound is also ideal - a perfect intimate acoustic with perfect blend. I hope the rest of the series will hold to this high standard.

On a perfectly unneccesary side note, when I think of the name of this quartet, I can't seem to get the Seinfeld episode out of my mind: "Mandelbaum, Mandelbaum!"

Post by Arthur October 20, 2007 (2 of 8)
krisjan said:

I'm starting this discussion for two reason: one, I consitently refer to the quartet as the "Marderling" in my review when I know full well it is the Mandelring. I apologize for that. Two (and most importantly), I wanted to bring this ongoing set to the attention of all music lovers. Both performances and sound are magnificent. I think this group beats the original Borodin (on EMI analog RBCD) and the DG RBCD Emersons (recorded live) by a good margin. Both of those RBCD sets have gotten high praise over the years with the Emerson getting awards. But the sheer humanity of the Mandelring performances win out for me. The sound is also ideal - a perfect intimate acoustic with perfect blend. I hope the rest of the series will hold to this high standard.

On a perfectly unneccesary side note, when I think of the name of this quartet, I can't seem to get the Seinfeld episode out of my mind: "Mandelbaum, Mandelbaum!"

The tenor of the comments I've read prior to yours was that the Mandelring was too gentile in works that need more bite. But I think I agree with you a) that something is missing from the Emerson, and b) that the Mandelrings are special. To me these works are more private than the Symphonies and they respond well to a simple, clean, musical approach.

I also liked the Shostakovich Quartet cycle that circulated briefly on Olympia and the partial cycle from the Hagens. They might be my favorites since they always seem to have a singing quality that is rare any more.

Take care,
Bret

Post by Beagle October 20, 2007 (3 of 8)
Arthur said: the Mandelring was too gentile
You DO mean genteel, don't you? Or do you refer to the jewish musical elements in Quartets 2 and 4?

If you mean genteel, I agree somewhat. I have a specific problem with the opening of No. 6 which other performances have rendered as Pedantic Teacher with Too-Brilliant Student; I can't hear that in the Mandelring version. On SACD, I prefer Shostakovich: String Quartets Nos. 2 & 8 - Rosalyra Quartet -- but I am extremely grateful to the Mandelrings for embarking on a complete cycle. On RBCD, the Brodsky are my favourite -- but my best-ever experience was hearing the Shostakovich Quartet play several quartets live about 10 years ago: Wow! (I just ordered their 5 disc reissue on Regis, so Brodsky might get bumped as my favourite when it arrives.)

For a good overview of recordings, here's Andrew Clements:
http://arts.guardian.co.uk/fridayreview/story/0,,1114632,00.html

(Aide de memoire for krisjan: just think of Wagner being staged in Tel Aviv....)

Post by Arthur October 20, 2007 (4 of 8)
Beagle said:

You DO mean genteel, don't you? Or do you refer to the jewish musical elements in Quartets 2 and 4?

If you mean genteel, I agree somewhat. I have a specific problem with the opening of No. 6 which other performances have rendered as Pedantic Teacher with Too-Brilliant Student; I can't hear that in the Mandelring version. On SACD, I prefer Shostakovich: String Quartets Nos. 2 & 8 - Rosalyra Quartet -- but I am extremely grateful to the Mandelrings for embarking on a complete cycle. On RBCD, the Brodsky are my favourite -- but my best-ever experience was hearing the Shostakovich Quartet play several quartets live about 10 years ago: Wow! (I just ordered their 5 disc reissue on Regis, so Brodsky might get bumped as my favourite when it arrives.)

For a good overview of recordings, here's Andrew Clements:
http://arts.guardian.co.uk/fridayreview/story/0,,1114632,00.html

(Aide de memoire for krisjan: just think of Wagner being staged in Tel Aviv....)

Thanks Beagle! I used to be an excellent speller, but that was before I started studying foreign languages. Now I rely on spell-check, but that can sometimes have amusing consequences, as we can clearly see here! (-:
Thanks for the plug on the Rosalyra--I have been curious, but with only one short review and no distributor, I didn't figure to inves the time seeking it out. Now, I'm not so sure.

Post by Beagle October 20, 2007 (5 of 8)
Arthur said: Thanks for the plug on the Rosalyra ... I'm not so sure.
Right now I'm listening to it for the 3rd time this evening. I wanted to be sure it was as satisfying as I remembered. It is, it has some of that 'bite' which you missed in Mandelring. As stvnharr says, "this is one to get". I ordered mine from Artegra for US$15 +2.50 s/h, and it shipped the next day. I just tried the Artegra link here, but it came up FORBIDDEN! Nil desperado, AcousticSounds has it for same price.

PS: If you had claimed your typo as a deliberate pun, you would appear quite brilliant.

Post by jlaurson October 20, 2007 (6 of 8)
"I too have the original Borodin set (EMI RBCD not the Chando which was recorded later) which is heartfelt and intense but suffers a bit from very average recorded analog sound."

True. Except that the Chandos set is the older one than the Melodiya/EMI/BMG set.
Which is also the reason that the Chandos set is only 1-13 - as 14 and 15 had not been composed when they were recorded. But since the Melodiya is so excellent and comes with the two pieces for String Octet and the Piano Quintet with Richter, there's not a lot of reason to go for the Chandos historic set. Except that the Melodiya/EMI/BMG set can be rather difficult to get a hold of. I got it back then in the BMG club - and now I just got the new Melodiya box of the re-release. (Sound is still not that great - but the performances are phenomenal.)

Comparing any performance favorably with the Borodin is saying a lot. Mentioning it in one sentence with the Emerson, however, is strange. Emerson and Borodin could not possibly be further apart on the spectrum of how to do DSCH. (The reviewer does go on mentioning what many perceive as a slick or even glib element in the Emerson that's lacking emotional depth. Emerson *are* good in Prokofiev, though, as they are in late (only) Beethoven, Webern, and a few other things (Ives...). I am horrified by their Haydn, don't like their middle and early Beethoven, and find little in their Mendelssohn that's not been done better by three, four other ensembles.

Shostakovich Q4t, Fitzwilliams, and maybe St.Petersburg could be mentioned when talking DSCH, btw. Those are all very fine cycles.

Has anyone hear the complete set of the Danel?? I've heard most - but only once, a few twice, and I was very impressed. Still, so far I think the best modern DSCH has come from the Jerusalem Quartet. (That's not having heard the Mandelring.)
http://weta.org/fm/blog/?p=117

Post by Arthur October 20, 2007 (7 of 8)
jlaurson said:

"I too have the original Borodin set (EMI RBCD not the Chando which was recorded later) which is heartfelt and intense but suffers a bit from very average recorded analog sound."

True. Except that the Chandos set is the older one than the Melodiya/EMI/BMG set.
Which is also the reason that the Chandos set is only 1-13 - as 14 and 15 had not been composed when they were recorded. But since the Melodiya is so excellent and comes with the two pieces for String Octet and the Piano Quintet with Richter, there's not a lot of reason to go for the Chandos historic set. Except that the Melodiya/EMI/BMG set can be rather difficult to get a hold of. I got it back then in the BMG club - and now I just got the new Melodiya box of the re-release. (Sound is still not that great - but the performances are phenomenal.)

Comparing any performance favorably with the Borodin is saying a lot. Mentioning it in one sentence with the Emerson, however, is strange. Emerson and Borodin could not possibly be further apart on the spectrum of how to do DSCH. (The reviewer does go on mentioning what many perceive as a slick or even glib element in the Emerson that's lacking emotional depth. Emerson *are* good in Prokofiev, though, as they are in late (only) Beethoven, Webern, and a few other things (Ives...). I am horrified by their Haydn, don't like their middle and early Beethoven, and find little in their Mendelssohn that's not been done better by three, four other ensembles.

Shostakovich Q4t, Fitzwilliams, and maybe St.Petersburg could be mentioned when talking DSCH, btw. Those are all very fine cycles.

Has anyone hear the complete set of the Danel?? I've heard most - but only once, a few twice, and I was very impressed. Still, so far I think the best modern DSCH has come from the Jerusalem Quartet. (That's not having heard the Mandelring.)
http://weta.org/fm/blog/?p=117

A friend bought the Danel and raved about it. I've heard extended fragments and liked it, but I've never gotten around to adding it and listening with care.

Post by krisjan October 21, 2007 (8 of 8)
jlaurson said:

"I too have the original Borodin set (EMI RBCD not the Chando which was recorded later) which is heartfelt and intense but suffers a bit from very average recorded analog sound."

True. Except that the Chandos set is the older one than the Melodiya/EMI/BMG set.
Which is also the reason that the Chandos set is only 1-13 - as 14 and 15 had not been composed when they were recorded. But since the Melodiya is so excellent and comes with the two pieces for String Octet and the Piano Quintet with Richter, there's not a lot of reason to go for the Chandos historic set. Except that the Melodiya/EMI/BMG set can be rather difficult to get a hold of. I got it back then in the BMG club - and now I just got the new Melodiya box of the re-release. (Sound is still not that great - but the performances are phenomenal.)

Comparing any performance favorably with the Borodin is saying a lot. Mentioning it in one sentence with the Emerson, however, is strange. Emerson and Borodin could not possibly be further apart on the spectrum of how to do DSCH. (The reviewer does go on mentioning what many perceive as a slick or even glib element in the Emerson that's lacking emotional depth. Emerson *are* good in Prokofiev, though, as they are in late (only) Beethoven, Webern, and a few other things (Ives...). I am horrified by their Haydn, don't like their middle and early Beethoven, and find little in their Mendelssohn that's not been done better by three, four other ensembles.

Shostakovich Q4t, Fitzwilliams, and maybe St.Petersburg could be mentioned when talking DSCH, btw. Those are all very fine cycles.

Has anyone hear the complete set of the Danel?? I've heard most - but only once, a few twice, and I was very impressed. Still, so far I think the best modern DSCH has come from the Jerusalem Quartet. (That's not having heard the Mandelring.)
http://weta.org/fm/blog/?p=117

Thanks for the Borodin chronology - I was going from memory and forgot that the Chandos series was actually the earlier recording and not newer ones from the reconstituted Borodin ensemble. Also, I can see where my comments re: the Borodin and Emerson could be construed that I think they are similar in their approach. The common element in both is their intensity in playing but the Borodin have a definite slavic feel to their rythyms and have a first-violin-centric sound that the Emersons lack. I do like the Borodin (EMI/Melodyia) set much better than the Emersons for what its worth but I like the Mandelring best of all (so far) because they make this music more inviting to me.

That being said, I have not heard the other offerings you cited. I've read a lot about the Fitzwilliams over the years but have never heard any of their Shostys. From the descriptions, it seems like they are closer to Mandelring than Emerson. Thanks for weighing in.

Closed