Notes and Editorial Reviews
Reviews of the original recordings that make up this set:
The Jerusalem Quartet is an extraordinary group – but in Shostakovich they are simply great. Their spectacular 2005 recording of Quartets 1, 4, and 9 (Harmonia Mundi 901865) is followed by readings of Quartets nos.6, 8, and 11 -- and it’s about as good.
Because of the nature of the included works it has an altogether darker, more somber hue, but the strengths of the Jerusalem Quartet come out in these works just as much. From the Allegretto of op.101 to the Finale - Moderato of op.122, they give a riveting account that is haunting in its painful moods, biting in its irony, irresistible in its drive.
In Quartet No.8, where the cool
perfection of the Emerson Quartet (DG 638802 or 459670) and the Hagen Quartet (DG 650502) works best, the Jerusalem Quartet shows an alternative that is equally dark but gripping, instead of offering that sense of détaché. I said it before - but it bears repeating: Amid the plethora of groups that have issued complete Shostakovich cycles over the last ten years, this quartet is one that I actually, actively wish will offer one, too!
-- Jens F. Laurson - WETA 90.9
Though still in their twenties, the members of the Jerusalem Quartet have been performing together as an ensemble for over a decade, and their experience and unanimity pay dividends in this program of Shostakovich quartets. Most impressive is their tonal blend—they achieve a richness and smooth clarity of phrasing and seldom employ exaggerated effects. However, there are places in these quartets where a bit more bite is called for; for example, in the Quartet No. 1, they lack the dramatic astringency of the original Borodin Quartet (Chandos), sounding a bit cautious in the opening movement and giving the finale a surprising (for Shostakovich, anyway) Mendelssohnian lightness. Again, they avoid any semblance of Russian schmaltz in the Quartet No. 4, and negotiate their way through the music adeptly, albeit without making a strong, individual statement. By comparison, you can find a greater emotional investment and more forceful sense of tension in the original Borodin account, where significant details pop out at every turn.
Fortunately, the Jerusalem foursome saves the best for last. Though they don’t go for the throat in the manner of the Sorrel Quartet (Chandos), their Quartet No. 9 shows the group at their most committed and convincing. Their instrumental fluency allows them to take things at a slightly quicker pace than usual, and while details may seem rushed in the first two movements, after that everything clicks into place. They provide the third movement (Allegretto) with an impulsive rhythmic snap, and nail the transitions with exciting, dead-on precision. Alas, they don’t luxuriate in either of the two Adagios, but there’s a spooky kick into the extended finale (Allegro), where they tie the disparate episodes together by soaring through them with panache and no fear of technical difficulties.
Word is that the group will be performing all of the Shostakovich quartets in concerts scheduled over the next couple of years, though there’s no indication that this disc is the first installment of a recorded cycle. There’s no doubt they have the chops to play this music, but comparable interpretive depth may require a bit more time and seasoning. Nevertheless, this is a talented young quartet on the rise.
Art Lange, FANFARE
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