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Shostakovich: String Quartets Nos. 5, 7 and 9 CD

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Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Allegro Non Troppo
  2. Andante - Allegretto Tranquillo - Andante
  3. Moderato-Allegretto
  4. Allegretto
  5. Lento
  6. Allegro
  7. 1. Allegro con moto
  8. 2. Adagio-
  9. 3. Allegretto-
  10. 4. Adagio-
  11. 5. Allegro

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Shostakovich's 15 string quartets represent one of the 20th century's most profound statements in chamber music. As he grew older, Shostakovich's focus shifted increasingly towards the chamber medium, and the Quartets contain some of his most personal and poignant musical utterances. Here the St Petersburg String Quartet add to their highly successful series of quartets by Shostakovich with three more compelling recordings, this time Nos 5, 7 and 9. Shostakovich wrote his Fifth Quartet in 1952 and is his greatest string quartet up to that time a masterpiece which he never surpassed and rarely equalled for its consummate symphonic integration. It was the first quartet to have a direct connection with one of his symphonies, in this case the Tenth. The Seventh Quartet was completed in March 1960. It is the shortest of the series and explores aspects of quartet-writing not encountered in other of his works, at least up to that time. It is dedicated to the memory of his first wife, Nina, who had died in 1954. The work moves between passion and tension and draws largely on fugal writing to make the distinctions apparent. The Ninth Quartet is another personal work, dedicated to Irina Antonovna Shostakovich, his third wife whom he married in 1962

This well-chosen trio of quartets by Shostakovich continues the St Petersburg Quartet's cycle (already issued are Nos.2 and 3 and 4, 6 and 8), which has firmly established the pedigree of this young group. The four have daringly entered a field dominated by the Borodin Quartet, and it is a measure of their success that they are able to bring their own stamp to these works. The Seventh Quartet, Op.108 is the shortest of the entire cycle, but nevertheless acts as much more than an interlude between Nos.5 and 9. Although close in some ways to the Fitzwilliam Quartet's interpretation, the Hyperion performance is easily the more convincing, highlighting the otherworldly effects and daring sound world. The immediate recording captures the nervous excitement of the first movement of the Fifth Quartet, and the ensemble display a depth of interpretation that highlights the desolate, spare textures of that quartet's Andante. They have the measure of the Ninth Quartet also. Perhaps most impressive here is their sensitivity to harmonic changes (best heard in the Adagio second movement), although this is not to imply that they are afraid to bring out the more progressive, almost orchestral, scoring of the finale. --Colin Clarke

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