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The Emerson Quartet, committed champion of contemporary music, has just released the Shostakovich quartets on a five-disc set; chronologically arranged, they reflect his growing personal and political travail. The comparative serenity of the early quartets, indicating how he might have composed free of external pressure, soon gives way to increasingly bleak despair, culminating in the shattering, devastating final ones. The players seem to have a special affinity for these works and fully communicate their overwhelming emotional impact without becoming excessive or sentimental. They give each quartet its own distinct character and bring out the set's wildly changing moods, from sardonic, often grotesque irony bordering on desperation to profound sorrow and mournful lamentation. Recorded live at the Aspen Music Festival, the playing is superb, combining the excitement and spontaneity of a performance with utmost control and perfection; the ensemble is seamless, the sound beautiful, but not lush, varied and expressive. --Edith Eisler
Nonetheless, for me, its overall austere beauty was as undeniable as the emotional impact.
Although these are the only performances of these works I have heard and I cannot compare them favorably or unfavorably to others, I think they are very good.
The Emerson String Quartet prove once again that they can set new standards for performance of the great masterpieces.
Inspired performances of some of the best quartets ever written. It's hard to find any fault with this. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Martin C.
Shostakovich's fifteen string quartets took a while to reach their well-deserved position as the most important cycle of the twentieth century apart from Bartok's unassailable six... Read morePublished on May 19, 2009 by G.D.
Dmitri Shostakovich, my favorite 20th century composer, wrote a series of fifteen string quartets that span his entire career. Read morePublished on July 28, 2007 by Moldyoldie
This would be a bargain at almost any price, and the depth of emotional intensity that the Emerson brings to a live performance -- I saw them on a sticky evening at Ravinia in... Read morePublished on November 10, 2006 by Owen R. Youngman
These guys used to be decent players, but their playing have gotten worse over the years. They have no understanding of Shostakovich's music, but then again who does? Read morePublished on September 24, 2006 by J. Kim
Just saw the Emerson do the 8th at the Amelia Island chamber music summer program. It is not possible that there is a better performance of this work. Moving beyond belief.Published on June 24, 2006 by kayea
Like the first two reviewers, I suggest you save your $85 for this set and go with the Borodin's 12 quartet recording (at $45!) instead. Read morePublished on October 13, 2005 by Jonathan Boyce
I don't believe any lover of chamber music should be without two string quartet cycles: Beethoven and Shostakovich. Read morePublished on June 26, 2002 by John L. Anderson
I've always been an enthusiast fan of the Emersons. Their marvelous precision and coordination has made them a legendary ensemble. Read morePublished on January 12, 2002 by Ypres1918