Shostakovich: Complete String Quartets (1-15), Piano Quintet Box set, Original recording remastered
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These Quartets inhabit a different space than the Symphonies although the two genres are always placed side by side, incorrectly I think. The Quartets had a purer conception,and they always worked best when left alone without addendums as,the Piano Quintet Op.57, included with admirable aggressive playing from Sviatoslav Richter.Here in the Quintet I thought rendered the strings as mere accompaniment,not first chair actors/ speakers. Shostakovich's creativity always required a voice, that is one element that is shared with the Symphonies,where flute,clarinet,bassoon are given solo roles as a form of commentary on some previous atrocity,or a sense of repose,of serene reflection, and the various First Violin Solos especially that occur throughout all these works is one focus,a parallel with his immense Symphonies.The Borodin allows interpretive freedoms,like concerto soloists each role,and gives it the space it needs, as in the demonic Allegro molto from the Eighth Quartet. The Borodin continually distinguish themselves in not being afraid to play an ugly sound,a Gypsy-like gesture, as again moments from the Eighth where the viola merely marks out a chord quite obviously, with an ugly tone, or the simple provincial minor chord outlines in the Third Quartet,something a street musician might have done.Read more ›
These are wide ranging works, from the almost Haydnesque 1st quartet through the almost serial 13th quartet, and onward to the intensely elegaic 15th quartet, composed of 7 slow movements. The early quartets are mostly written in Shostakovitch's middle style as reflected in the 5th symphony. The music is clear and very tonal, as most works of Shostakovitch's Soviet Realist style would be. But they reveal underlying secrets in the occasional dissonances and dark moments. And starting with the 6th quartet the music begins to transition into the composer's late style. These works are more enigmatic. The musical language is more chromatic...based on the same synthetic scales that inspired Scriabin and Messiaen...and much more dissonant than the earlier quartets. Shostakovitch is much more experimental, stretching his language and formal structures. Also, there seems to be crytic messages in the music based on numerical symbolism, hidden letter messages, and references to the composer's other music.
These performances are definative. The Borodin Quartet, along with the Beethoven Quartet, have the best pedigree with these works, having worked personally with the composer, and actually premiering some of these works.Read more ›
The Borodin Quartet instictively phrases this music, paces it, balances it, in a thousand ways that cause the listener to marvel at these inventive departures from Vienese/Western chamber traditions. The music is often vulgar, daring to "stink in the ears" as Hanslick once wrote of Tschaikovsky, but just as often naive, childlike, and tragic as Lear on the heath with dead Cordelia. It smiles though wounded; it dances on broken legs; it can make you laugh and break your heart.
Perhaps too often it dares to be more than chamber music ought to be, but in the last quartets -- 11 through 15 -- Shostakovich also concerns himself with pure music and with a very personal way of employing tone rows. The few Beethoven Quartet performances I have suggest that ensemble knew this music best, but the Borodin's match them very closely. I would also recommend the Fitzwilliam Quartet set on Decca, based on lps I owned a number of years ago.
The Quintet performance is a distinguished bonus, adding value to this set. I still think the composer's recording with the Beethoven Quartet remains the best, though not as well played or recorded (the same is often said for Schnabel's Beethoven sonata recordings, the irony being there is more to music than the notes on the page).
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This set brilliantly portrays the genius of these 15 Quartets better than any other. Technically and artistically powerful, moving performances. Read morePublished on January 6, 2005 by David Anderson
This is as good as it gets. Shostavokich's most intimate statements played by a the superlative Borodin quartet. Read morePublished on June 3, 2001 by Douglas Weaver
So personal and emotional that you sometimes feel guilt as if you are eavesdropping or as if you stumbled upon dmitri's diary. Read morePublished on February 23, 2001
This is, by far and away, the most personal and emotionally accurate realizations of these incredible works on disc. Read morePublished on January 8, 2001 by Nurallah Jivraj
This set is a live recording of the entire 15 quartets of Shostakovich, by a group of musicians intensely focused on 'modern' Russian composers -- i.e. the Borodin Quartet. Read morePublished on April 12, 2000