Notes and Editorial Reviews
This disc has the kinds of sonic flaws that occasionally afflict Chandos recordings: The bright, reverberant "house sound" is pushed too far, the echoes muddle the textures above forte, and the overall sound turns unpleasantly hard and two-dimensional. At the first loud passage of Shostakovich's Quartet No. 5 you are apt to grab for the remote to tame the sound, only to find that the ensuing quieter passages lose definition and presence unless boosted back up. Other tricks, such as turning on a surround-sound circuit, likewise fail. This is especially disappointing because the Sorrel Quartet's performances are recommendable. They play with passion and spontaneity, without any loss of precision. Their performance of the Fifth
quartet comes close to equalling those by the Fitzwilliam or Borodin Quartets, but the abrupt dynamic contrasts the composer built into this music only highlight the recording's sonic shortcomings that much more.
The Fifteenth quartet is less troubled by problems with the sound. The work depends for its effect on contrasts in tonal color and types of tone production rather than on differences in loudness. The Sorrels are masterly, deploying different types of string tone, again nearly rivaling the Fitzwilliam Quartet but forced to give ground because the sound is still not first-rate. It's too bad that this fifth volume in an ongoing Shostakovich cycle is handicapped by the engineering. While it likely wouldn't emerge on top among such sets, it could have been a contender.
--Joseph Stevenson, ClassicsToday.com Read less
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