Review by andrewb May 1, 2007 (7 of 7 found this review helpful)
|This recording of the 8th quartet might receive some contrasting views.
First of all it sounds beautiful, an adjective I have never applied before to the 8th, terms like intensity, discord, pain, emptiness, agitatation, nervousness, tension, overwrought, even horror might be used but never beauty until now. However, as the concomitant of this beauty some will find that the performance lacks the searing intensity and pain of other performances, such as the Borodin Quartet from the early eighties.
My personal view is that this recording is very fine, and it gives us a view that is not over laden with political and historical significance. Yes, there is loneliness to be heard here, and pain, but most of all it is the music that one hears – never before have I heard the musical threads played with such clarity; the ensemble between the players is marvellous. Each part of the quartet is expertly balanced into an architectural whole starting from the beginning when the opening motif is passed from cello to viola and then to 2nd and 1st violin, a magical moment, followed by the frightful start of the 2nd movement allegro succeeded by the zestful but sinister Yiddish theme, the discordant slashes of the violin strings in the 4th and finally ending in the peace and loneliness of the finale.
This is a performance where the music is central and it confirms the 8th quartet as one of the finest compositions of the 20th century.
As to the 3rd and 6th quartets, they are played with equal clarity and conviction, each is fascinating and startling in their originality. Anyone who has the first volume in this series will know what to expect here.
The sound in multi-channel is excellent, it is detailed and clear, similar to volume 1, and has a warm, almost romantic tone. The spread of instuments between the front speakers is perfect. My only small criticism is that the warmth of sound might be inappropriate to these quartets; some might argue that Shostakovich is better heard with an abrasive sound on the violins thus accentuating the emotional intensity of the works.
The booklet notes are quite good and concentrate on the significance of the music in its social context while the accompanying promotional DVD has some brief comments from the players about playing in a string quartet with some pleasing excerpts from Schubert’s “Death and the Maiden”, Brahms Op. 51/1 and Shostakovich No 2.
At the end of the booklet the release schedule states that volume 3 is planned for later this year and will contain numbers 5, 7 and 9, while volume 4 will be released next year with quartets 10, 12 and 14.
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