Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

"Music, both vocall and instrumental, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." - Thomas Coryat, after hearing 3 hours of music at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, 1608.

Friday, September 30, 2016

A passionate second look at Shostakovich

The Brodsky Quartet's Shostakovich cycle recorded in the late 1980s, and released on a Teldec box set of 6 CDs in 1990, has become one of the standard versions of this great collection of 15 string quartets, along with those of the Emerson, Borodin, Manhattan, Pacifica and Fitzwilliam Quartets. Now Chandos is releasing a new live recording made in the spring of 2016 at the Muziekgebouw in Amsterdam. Twenty-five more years of living with this music has resulted in somewhat more expansive readings - the tempi are almost all a bit slower - but the powerful, emotional core and raw edges of the Brodsky take remain. There was always something special about how these musicians could communicate the composer's public and private musings without slipping into the sentimental on the one hand, or glossing over the pain by focussing on surface beauty on the other. There's a hint of classical restraint at times, with Bach, Haydn and especially Beethoven always not too far away, but the most visceral moments are the Brodsky's best. Here's a reminder of this from their 1990 version, the 2nd movement of the great 8th Quartet:

The new live version of this music is just as urgent, with only the smallest bit of extra polish. I suspect the new version will remain as playable and re-playable as the first one, not only for this work, but all 15 quartets. I look forward to testing this theory.

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