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Shostakovich: Complete String Quartets / Borodin Quartet


Release Date: 11/11/2008 
Label:  Melodiya   Catalog #: 1001077   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  Dmitri Shostakovich
Performer:  Sviatoslav Richter
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Borodin String QuartetProkofiev String Quartet
Number of Discs: 6 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 7 Hours 11 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



SHOSTAKOVICH String Quartets Nos. 1–15. Piano Quintet 1. Two Pieces for String Octet 2 Borodin Str Qrt; 1 Sviatoslav Richter (pn); 2 Prokofiev Str Qrt MELODIYA 10 0 1077 (6 CDs: 430:36)


The ongoing, often vociferous, critical and scholarly debate over the meaning of Shostakovich’s music, primarily its Read more relationship to the oppressive Stalinist regime and subsequent Cold War policies that existed throughout his lifetime up to his death in 1975, will likely never subside. Whatever feelings the composer, an intensely shy and secretive person, concealed in his scores are cloaked within a private language of intervals, keys, and references, and the code, with a few still speculative exceptions, has not yet been cracked. Nevertheless, it appears obvious that Shostakovich used his symphonies as vehicles of public expression, while the string quartets—chronicling, at various points, his introspection, melancholy, satiric humor, and full-out anger—are more personal utterances, wrapped in exceedingly unorthodox forms. (It’s interesting to note that after his Haydnesque first venture into the string quartet idiom, only four of the remaining 14 used the “traditional” four-movement format.) For all their hidden agendas, these quartets are full of passion and drama, tension and vulnerability.


And so, as the most important and impressive cycle of string quartets since Beethoven’s, it’s understandable why ensembles have been drawn to them—there are nearly two dozen complete recordings available or in progress, not to mention all of the individual quartet recordings over the last few decades. There have, of course, been many special performances that have brought out significant if differing details, and I have covered a number of these in the pages of Fanfare . But if I were forced to choose just one complete version, one which projects a most convincing approach to Shostakovich’s personal style and, necessarily, sustains it throughout the entire cycle, it would be this one. Please note: This newly reissued set is of the 1978–83 recordings by the second Borodin Quartet, previously available in the U.S. separately and collected on EMI, not the worthwhile but incomplete earlier performances reissued on Chandos by the group’s first incarnation (see Fanfare 27:1), nor the five quartets recorded in 1990 by the same personnel as here.


In many of my previous reviews I have expressed a preference for performances that convey what I feel to be the spirit, and not just the letter, of these scores—something that the Borodins have done longer, and better, than anyone else, including the widely acclaimed, albeit more objective, Fitzwilliam and Emerson Quartets. What they bring to this music is a remarkable commitment and empathy based upon what I take to be an intimate understanding of Shostakovich’s sources, musical and emotional—that is, a familiarity with the style of the folk melodies and classical intimations the composer occasionally adapts to his own methods, and the experience of having lived through many of the same conditions in Soviet Russia. It’s hard, if not impossible, to isolate such extra-musical circumstances in specific musical details; suffice it to say that what the Borodin Quartet does best is to clarify and simultaneously intensify melodic or rhythmic nuances while projecting a sense of the Big Picture—for example, by emphasizing a particular lilt as well as a smidge of irony in the frequent dance-like episodes, or using their impressive tonal resources to coat a crucial phrase with a corrosive edge, an ominous chill, or a comforting (however momentary) warmth, while allowing the music to breathe and flow according to the composer’s design.


These are the most consistently persuasive performances of this music I know, and they remind me of a description the literary critic Richard Sewall used to explain why Emily Dickinson’s poetry was so profound. The Borodin Quartet has the ability, in interpreting Shostakovich’s music, to “look very deep, and see very clear.”


FANFARE: Art Lange
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Works on This Recording

1.
Quartet for Strings no 8 in C minor, Op. 110 by Dmitri Shostakovich
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Borodin String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1960; USSR 
2.
Quintet for Piano and Strings in G minor, Op. 57 by Dmitri Shostakovich
Performer:  Sviatoslav Richter (Piano)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Borodin String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1940; USSR 
3.
Pieces (2) for String Octet, Op. 11 by Dmitri Shostakovich
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Borodin String Quartet,  Prokofiev String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1924-1925; USSR 
4.
Quartet for Strings no 1 in C major, Op. 49 by Dmitri Shostakovich
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Borodin String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1935; USSR 
5.
Quartet for Strings no 2 in A major, Op. 68 by Dmitri Shostakovich
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Borodin String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1944; USSR 
6.
Quartet for Strings no 4 in D major, Op. 83 by Dmitri Shostakovich
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Borodin String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1949; USSR 
7.
Quartet for Strings no 3 in F major, Op. 73 by Dmitri Shostakovich
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Borodin String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1946; USSR 
8.
Quartet for Strings no 5 in B flat major, Op. 92 by Dmitri Shostakovich
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Borodin String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1952; USSR 
9.
Quartet for Strings no 6 in G major, Op. 101 by Dmitri Shostakovich
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Borodin String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1956; USSR 
10.
Quartet for Strings no 7 in F sharp minor, Op. 108 by Dmitri Shostakovich
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Borodin String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1960; USSR 
11.
Quartet for Strings no 9 in E flat major, Op. 117 by Dmitri Shostakovich
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Borodin String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1964; USSR 
12.
Quartet for Strings no 10 in A flat major, Op. 118 by Dmitri Shostakovich
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Borodin String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1964; USSR 
13.
Quartet for Strings no 11 in F minor, Op. 122 by Dmitri Shostakovich
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Borodin String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1966; USSR 
14.
Quartet for Strings no 12 in D flat major, Op. 133 by Dmitri Shostakovich
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Borodin String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1968; USSR 
15.
Quartet for Strings no 13 in B flat minor, Op. 138 by Dmitri Shostakovich
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Borodin String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1970; USSR 
16.
Quartet for Strings no 14 in F sharp major, Op. 142 by Dmitri Shostakovich
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Borodin String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1973; USSR 
17.
Quartet for Strings no 15 in E flat minor, Op. 144 by Dmitri Shostakovich
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Borodin String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1974; USSR 

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