If you’ve been following this series, you already know that it’s one of the great Shostakovich quartet cycles, outstanding even in a very crowded field. To the excellent versions of the fifteen Shostakovich Quartets, the Pacifica adds four quartets by Shostakovich’s contemporaries. Individual releases have already been reviewed in these pages, and there is little more that needs to be said here. The ensemble plays this music magnificently, whether in the big, symphonic Second and Third Quartets, the ideally paced Fourth, the intensely tragic Eighth, or the gaunt, mysterious, and dark final three.
Having all four two-disc volumes gathered together in an attractively priced box does,Read more however, reveal something very interesting about the selection of the accompanying quartets by Shostakovich’s contemporaries. These show a chronological progression from Miaskovsky (No. 13) through Prokofiev (No. 2), Weinberg (No. 6) and finally Schnittke (No. 3). Over the course of 20th century, we hear the evolution of the Soviet quartet from the late Romantic styles of Miaskovsky and, to a lesser extent Prokofiev, to an idiom in which the model becomes Shostakovich’s own (Weinberg), and later begins to seek out new directions (Schnittke). It’s a fascinating commentary on the Shostakovich Quartets that both places them in context and confirms their importance as iconic works in the genre.
There are certainly other Shostakovich cycles that may be as idiomatic or as well played, but there are none so thoughtful, and few so well engineered. A landmark, plain and simple.
Tops in a competitive fieldJuly 5, 2017By richard finegold (river forest, IL)See All My Reviews"The Shostakovich Quartets are now rivaling Beethoven or Mozart's Haydn Quartets for recordings, with seemingly every new ensemble regarding them as a right of passage. I still treasure my older cycles by the Fitzwilliam and Borodin Quartets but this Pacifica cycle earns a place at the table. They fall somewhere between the razor sharp Fitzwilliams and the soulful old Russian sound of Borodins but still capture the kaleidoscopic emotional content. The sound is a real plus; it's detailed and ambient with sort of a mid hall perspective, which makes it seem less claustrophobic than some other recordings which place the listener at the edge of the apron. The filler works are ok but no one is going to use those works asa the deciding reason to purchase"Report Abuse
Right up there with BeethovenAugust 17, 2016By R Gregory Capaldini (Arlington, VA)See All My Reviews"The instructor in an audio course about the career and music of Shostakovich played a lot of excerpts of the Strings Quartets, noting that in contrast to the Symphonies these works were consistently true to the composer's heart, sidestepping any consideration of pleasing the Soviet authorities. Well, I've only scratched the surface of these 15 pieces, and I'm already convinced of several things: (1) This is the essential Shostakovich, no elaborate tone painting of historic spectacles, no hymns to the glory of whoever/whatever. (2) This body of work is comparable to Beethoven's, perhaps spread out over a slightly longer time but with an equal range of expression. (3) The playing of the Pacifica Quartet is about as good as it gets, anywhere. (4) While "concept" boxed sets can be hit and miss, this one knocks it out of the park by interspersing four quartets by other contemporaneous Soviet musicians. This set is worth every penny I paid and then some, and my time is well spent listening."Report Abuse
A Five-Star Performance April 3, 2015By M. Bishop (Clackamas, OR)See All My Reviews"The music here is atonal; however, that does not prove to be challenge for the Pacifica Quartet. Shostakovich is a Twentieth Century composer, and the modern influences come through in the music. The harmonies appear skewed, yet the different parts complement each other. The recording quality is stellar; the sound is clear, thanks to the recording smarts of Cedille Records. There is a program music quality about these quartets that comes through in string quartet #5; the movements of the quartet seamlessly blend into forthcoming movements. I recommend this album to those seeking to hear Shostakovich's string quartets played well."Report Abuse