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Shostakovich: The String Quartets (5 CD's)

January 11, 2000

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Disc 2
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11:19
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8:29
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6:44
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3:58
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11
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6:33
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Disc 3
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3:42
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2:48
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5:05
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4:33
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2:38
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4:05
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3:00
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3:57
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16
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4:49
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17
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8:41
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Disc 4
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4:35
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2:47
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2:11
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1:08
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1:01
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4:12
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3:39
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19:24
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19:10
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Disc 5
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8:14
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8:52
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12:37
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5:47
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1:38
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4:30
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8
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4:36
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9
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Product Details

  • Original Release Date: January 11, 2000
  • Release Date: January 11, 2000
  • Number of Discs: 5
  • Label: Deutsche Grammophon
  • Copyright: (C) 2000 Deutsche Grammophon GmbH, Hamburg
  • Record Company Required Metadata: Music file metadata contains unique purchase identifier. Learn more.
  • Total Length: 5:58:46
  • Genres:
  • ASIN: B0015ZNN08
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #309,631 Paid in Albums (See Top 100 Paid in Albums)

Customer Reviews

Inspired performances of some of the best quartets ever written.
Martin C.
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.
Lord Chimp
As much as it is possible, they make this music friendly and easy to listen to without sacrificing all of its bite and sarcasm.
Santa Fe Listener

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

61 of 69 people found the following review helpful By Mr. David R. Watson on November 19, 2000
Format: Audio CD
The Emerson Quartet play with considerable refinement and technical skill and there are places where they offer genuine insight into these works, but I would venture that when the work is at its most eccentric and personal (for example in No 11) they are found wanting. When I first began to explore this set I was impressed, but over repeated listenings they have failed to grow, which means that had I heard these performances in the recital hall I would have been more than happy, but repeated listening on disk brings out the short-comings. Too often they miss the brutal irony and perverse humour in Shostakovich, a quality which is crucial to a complete understanding of the composer. If anything the Emerson set takes away some of the strangeness and makes these works sound well written, but more like conventional quartet writing. The tragedy which seems to lay beneath the surface of even the most apparently sunny of these quartets is often missing, or else over-stated in a way that feels like a point is being made rather than a neccessary condition being communicated. It is becoming increasingly apparent that Shostakovich's cycle of quartets represents the high point for the medium in the twentieth century (yes greater even than the Bartok) and it is good to see a quartet of the front rank, such as the Emerson, recording them, but if it is depth and an ultimately rewarding set of readings you are looking for then stick with the Borodin or Fitzwilliam sets, neither set is so glossy, nor so technically assured, but both it seems to me, are closer to the enigmatic and equivocal truth of Shostakovich.
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34 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Lord Chimp on January 28, 2005
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
If you are looking to purchase a complete cycle of Shostakovich's quartets, I cannot tell you which to buy. After much consideration, I chose the Emerson's performance of the cycle, but your own desires might be different. Your choices should likely come down to the Borodin, Fitzwillian, and Emerson versions, and you should read lots of reviews for all of those. Those first two cover the "Russian spirit" of the music best, according to critical consensus, and since both ensembles worked with the composer, they probably have the most credibility. They also are more appealing in terms of price. Despite being often criticized as shallow, I chose the Emerson set for three reasons: I have their Bartok cycle which I think is mind-blowing (I have listened to lots of other interpretations of Bartok's quartets, particularly the third and fourth, and the Emersons have everyone beat). Secondly, I thought I would enjoy an "external" interpretation of these quartets -- fresh performances of the quartets qua music with less overt "Russianness" (nothing wrong with Russianness, mind you). Finally, the Emersons recorded this set live (the only audience noise is applause at the end of each piece), and I thought that might be more intense. 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. Many critics say the Emersons often play too fast, which may be true, but i will attest to the dazzling rush are capable of giving the music. Whether or not it is "too fast" (or "too slow" for that matter) is not relevant to whether the given speed is a factor in the enjoyment one derives from the music's composite.Read more ›
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38 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Santa Fe Listener HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on March 9, 2006
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
For many buyers the choice for a complete cycle of the Shostakovich quartets will come down to three: the Borodin, Emerson, and Fitzwilliam quartets. I own the latter two and can offer a comparison.

Fitzwilliam: This set, made between 1975-77 in a church in Surrey, has the advantage of price. Although the 15 quartets are spread out over 6 CDs as compared to 5 for the Emersons, Decca offers this cycle at roughly half the cost of the DG cycle (it's even cheaper on the used market). The performances eschew Russian soul, grit, and emotional extremes such as one hears from the Borodin Quartet. The Fitzwilliam Quartet sounds soulful but stops short of impassioned. As much as it is possible, they make this music friendly and easy to listen to without sacrificing all of its bite and sarcasm. They are not a virtuoso group (English critics actually praise them for this lack, as if the Emersons' technical mastery was a sign of glibness), so individual solo lines, of which there are many in these quartets, sound medium well played, not dazzling. Decca's sound as transfered to CD can be a bit shrill and congested but is certainly good enough. One large missing ingredient is tonal variation--the Fitzwilliam doesn't search out the peculiar tonalities that are implied in Shostakovich's string writing, which can be eerie, ghostly, brutal, and caustic by turns.

Emerson: Recorded in Aspen at intervals between 1994 and 1999, these are live performances from the music festival and are thus not ideal sonically. What's sometimes lacking is solidity and warmth. Even so, the recorded sound is considerably more detailed than in the Fitzwilliam set, or any other of the four I listened to. When this cycle was first issued in 1999 it swept the field for good reason.
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