This is extraordinary ; possibly the finest-ever recordings of one of the greatest string quartet cycles, admittedly without the final two...
Impassioned and lyrical playing, and remarkably good value for money, also. Less edgy and less closely-miked than the at times intimidatingly fierce Emerson Quartet, this digitally-remastered version of a 70s recording is an essential buy for anyone who loves the Bartok Quartets and doesn't know where to start with Shostakovich. There is wit, humour, flawless musicianship and real drive here.
This music is more honest and personal than the symphonies, as well as richer and more harmonically daring. I have not heard a more heart-breakingly sad version of the Eighth, probably his best-known quartet ; immensely moving, even more so than the Fitzwilliam Quartet version. This version of the Eighth makes Barber's Adagio sound like adolescent self-pity ; this is grown-up grief, communicated by master musicians. Yes, I realise this may all sound over-the-top, but this music is serious medicine. I hadn't bought a single CD for three months, and then broke this musical fast with this box. There is enough here for many months ; I'll stop there, but could go on citing stunning moments from this set for many hundred words.
Somewhat shame-faced PS, added much later, to apologise for the rather mean sniping at the Barber Adagio ; it is indeed a fine peace of work, albeit less intense than the later Shostakovich quartets in particular.