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Schostakowitsch: Streichquartette 3 & 5; Polka / Acies Quartet

Shostakovich / Acies Quartet
Release Date: 03/13/2012 
Label:  Gramola   Catalog #: 98923   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Dmitri Shostakovich
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Acies Quartet
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 5 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

SHOSTAKOVICH String Quartets: No. 3; No. 5. The Golden Age: Polka Acies Qrt GRAMOLA 98923 (64:41)

The Acies Quartet, joined by cellist David Geringas, made my 2010 Want List with its Gramola recording of Schubert’s great C-Major String Quintet. I knew, therefore, that if the ensemble’s Shostakovich came up short it could only be due to an ill wind that happened to blow it onto my doorstep so soon after the arrival of two volumes in the Pacifica Read more Quartet’s new Shostakovich cycle. Unfortunately, the coincidental timing of releases often results, unfairly, in the shortchanging of a recording that might otherwise earn high marks were it not for the almost simultaneous appearance of a duplicating competing version.

Tempos in three of the Third Quartet’s five movements are a cat’s whiskers close between the Acies’s and Pacifica’s readings—I: 6:49 vs. 6:58; II: 5:09 vs. 5:01; III: 4: 10 vs. 4:00. Only in the Adagio (IV) and concluding Moderato (V) are the differences noticeable—IV: 5:21 vs. 6:14; V: 9:49 vs. 8:53. Summing both timings, the total difference between them is only 12 seconds: Acies, 31:18; Pacifica, 31:06. It’s in the last two movements, though, where the Pacifica proves itself more attuned to the bipolar mood swings that occur so often in Shostakovich’s music and to such devastating effect. In taking the brooding Adagio slower and more probingly than the Acies and the clumsily tripping concluding Moderato faster, the Pacifica draws a starker contrast between the two movements that effectively, if perhaps counter-intuitively, reveals them to be two personalities inhabiting one body.

Once again, in the Fifth Quartet, tempos and timings between the Acies and Pacifica Quartets are very close, so close, in fact, that I wouldn’t cite the differences as a determining factor in favoring one over the other. What I do prefer, if only slightly, in the Pacifica’s reading of the score are the greater contrasts in mood, especially in the first and last movements, and a more controlled approach to the frantic passages, which gives the music a greater sense of austerity or severity. But I’m splitting hairs here. The Acies has its own equally valid interpretive perspective on both of these quartets, and execution-wise the ensemble yields nothing to the Pacifica.

The Acies Quartet was formed in 2000 by students at Austria’s Carinthian Landeskonservatorium. Twelve years is not a long time in the lifespan of a string quartet, yet the group has not made a slew of recordings; this is only the ensemble’s fourth album. If this latest release heralds the beginning of a new Shostakovich cycle I’d say the Acies is off to a good start and I’d recommend the disc."

FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
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Works on This Recording

Quartet for Strings no 3 in F major, Op. 73 by Dmitri Shostakovich
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Acies Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1946; USSR 
Venue:  Barocksaal, Stift Vorau, Styria, Austria 
Length: 30 Minutes 38 Secs. 
Quartet for Strings no 5 in B flat major, Op. 92 by Dmitri Shostakovich
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Acies Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1952; USSR 
Venue:  Barocksaal, Stift Vorau, Styria, Austria 
Length: 30 Minutes 23 Secs. 
Age of Gold, Op. 22: Polka by Dmitri Shostakovich
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Acies Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1927-1930; USSR 
Venue:  Barocksaal, Stift Vorau, Styria, Austria 
Length: 2 Minutes 14 Secs. 

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