Ginastera • Dvorák • Shostakovich

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Ginastera; Dvorak; Shostakovich
ALBUM TITLE: Ginastera • Dvorák • Shostakovich
WORKS: Ginastera: String Quartet No. 1; Dvorák: String Quartet Mo. 12 in F (American); Shostakovich: String Quartet No. 8 in C minor
PERFORMER: Simón Bolivar String Quartet

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It was an inspired idea for the Simón Bolívar String Quartet (SBSQ) to start their impressive and warmly recorded debut CD with the First Quartet by Argentinian composer Alberto Ginastera. Not surprisingly, the players fully empathise with its vibrant Latin American rhythms, masterly contrasts in texture and arresting colours. The fast outer movements are played with passionate conviction and great physical intensity. The SBSQ are equally capable of producing wonderfully atmospheric playing as is evident in their poetic and sensitive approach to the slow movement.

Some of the youthful ardour in their performance of the Ginastera seems to have rubbed off in the Dvoπák American Quartet. The first movement has tremendous energy and drive, and the pulsating syncopated rhythms that open the Finale are really exhilarating. What I miss, however, is the kind of warmth and sense of nostalgia that many central European quartets bring to the music, and the third movement could have projected greater wit and charm.

The Shostakovich presents rather different interpretative challenges. The SBSQ are at their most exciting in the frenzied activity of the second movement and the percussive writing of the ensuing Allegretto, though the return of the waltz, where the strings are muted, should surely make much more of a ghostly impact. The outer movements are perhaps the least convincing. Although the players invest the music with great depth of feeling, their approach seems a little ponderous, particularly at the final climax which needs to move forward much more.

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Erik Levi