This is the third volume in Cedille’s ongoing series of Shostakovich quartets, enriched by additional works by the composer’s Soviet colleagues, and like the two previous releases it is a triumph. Mieczyslaw Weinberg’s Sixth quartet was composed in 1946 and promptly blacklisted by the Soviet authorities. It’s a big work (32 minutes) in six well-contrasted movements, centering around a very beautiful Adagio. Its kinship with Shostakovich is clear, although it should be kept in mind that at this time Shostakovich’s own quartet cycle was in its initial stages.
As with the previous volumes, the Pacifica Quartet’s performances are as good as any. From the limpid purity of the NinthRead more quartet’s opening Moderato con moto, to the snarling Tenth quartet’s Allegretto furioso (mean but never crude), this is great quartet playing. The Eleventh quartet’s seven brief movements flow into one another with impressive cogency and point, while in the Twelfth quartet, a work that flirts with atonality despite being nominally in D-flat major, the Pacifica never loses its sense of direction and feeling for the musical line (especially critical in the long concluding Allegretto).
Also in keeping with previous releases, the sonics are marvelously lifelike, well-balanced, and warm. It’s funny how, with all of the fuss and bother about SACD, surround-sound, and whatnot, enterprising small labels like Cedille still make recordings in good, old-fashioned stereo that wipe the floor with outfits that expect new formats to supply a quality that ultimately remains the exclusive province of a top-notch engineer with a great pair of ears.
May be definitive?August 17, 2013By Mary Lynn H. (San Antonio, TX)See All My Reviews"This Pacifica Quartet Series of the Shostakovich Quartets shouldn't be missed. I have the older recordings by the Borodin Quartet which are great but I prefer these. The sonics are great and the music is something that Im learning to appreciate especially with these excellent disks. Im looking forward to the final installment in Oct 2013. I cant recommend this series more highly. The notes are very helpful as well. Cedille does a great job; these are excellent disks."Report Abuse
Superb Soviet String QuartetsJuly 31, 2013By Due Fuss See All My Reviews"An excellent addition to the "The Soviet Experience" series by the superb Pacifica Quartet. These are astute and poignant interpretations of these quartets that equal the benchmark recordings by the Borodin Quartet. The engineering is sensitive and well-balanced, the cover design is elegant, and the liner notes are informative. Bravo!"Report Abuse
Another excellent entry in an important string quJune 21, 2013By Dean Frey See All My Reviews"This is the third set in the Pacifica Quartet's excellent series The Soviet Experience, which connects groups of Shostakovich string quartets with other Soviet string quartets. The Quartet is now up to the mid-1960s in their Shostakovich cycle: the pair of #9 and #10 date from 1964, while #11 was written in 1966 and #12 in 1968. The Pacifica Quartet are outstanding in these works, and they provide a strong case as well for the sixth quartet of Mieczslaw Weinberg, written in 1948. The greatest work on these two discs is the twelfth quartet, which is special for musical and biographical reasons. Shostakovich uses atonality throughout the piece, and sets a grim mood with his opening theme, which contains all twelve, unrepeated, notes of the chromatic scale. Before an uncharacteristically optimistic ending, Shostakovich provides his usual jocular, sarcastic episodes, alternating with almost mystical periods that make reference to late Beethoven. High marks to the Pacifica Quartet for keeping all of this in hand. Knowing the circumstances of Shostakovich's life at the time, especially relating to his health, adds a tragic dimension to the music. Kudos to Cedille for this fascinating series, providing the Pacifica Quartet a platform for a vital new Shostakovich series while adding context with important works by other Soviet composers. I've learned a lot from the excellent notes by David Fanning, and love the evocative posters used on the CD covers."Report Abuse