Notes and Editorial Reviews
fuga libera is pleased to present an important new recording of the fifteen string quartets of Dmitri Shostakovich, one of the most important musical and cultural figures of the 20th century, by Belgium's remarkable Danel Quartet. The Danels created a sensation in 1993 as "dark horse" competitors in the International Dmitri Shostakovich Competition, where they stunned the audience and jury with their intensely dramatic approach and won First Prize. The Danels have worked over the years with members of both the Borodin and Beethoven Quartets (the two ensembles that premiered these works in the USSR) and Shostakovich scholar Krzysztof Meyer, as well as consultation with the composer's widow Irina Shostakovich and Shostakovich
documentarian Emmanuel Uttweiler, and have forged a fresh, probing yet individualistic approach to these works, now recognized as a major cornerstone in the quartet repertoire. The recordings, which are being released at a special value price, were made over a four-year period at the state-of-the-art studios the Bavarian Radio in a cycle completed late in 2005. The set is accompanied by new and illuminating notes by Shostakovich scholars Frans Lemaire and David Fanning, and uses the new edition of the 15 quartets published by the Dmitri Shostakovich Centre.
R E V I E W S
"Wit and finesse add a new dimension to a welcome Shostakovich bargain.
This is a remarkable set...their approach is often unlike that of recent exponents. With consistently sweet sounds, pronounced yet carefully matched vibrato and lithe, intimately drawn interpretations, the Danel offer something else again...I found their Gallic wit and finesse adding a new dimension to familiar music. You're never hit with anything more visceral and rosiny than the argument (and the tuning) can stand, but neither is there any lack of commitment and fire."
- David Gutman, GRAMOPHONE
The Quatuor Danel plays all of this music magnificently. It's particularly impressive to hear how first violin Marc Danel sustains passages of savage intensity without any sacrifice in tonal beauty. I'm thinking particularly of the second movements of the Eighth and Tenth Quartets, as well as the more heavily scored passages in Nos. 2-4. Indeed, the ensemble playing throughout is exemplary, as precise as the Emersons (on DG) but warmer and more rhythmically flexible. This gives the angular melodies in the last three works (Nos. 13-15) a more human face and paints each quartet on a broader emotional canvas. In short, these performances stand with the very finest, and the only quibble I have about this set is the group's all-too-common habit of marking entrances with heavy breathing, captured with distracting clarity by the microphones. If this doesn't bother you, then by all means get these performances and enjoy. I certainly look forward to hearing more from the Quatuor Danel, sans the bronchial counterpoint.
--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
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