Ravel, Smetana, Shostakovich, Jan‡cek, Britten

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2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

COMPOSERS: Britten,Janacek,Ravel,Shostakovich,Smetana
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Medici Quartet
WORKS: String Quartet in F; String Quartet No. 1 in E minor (From My Life); String Quartet No. 8 in C minor; String Quartet No. 1 (Kreutzer Sonata); String Quartet No. 3
PERFORMER: Medici String Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: 3-6436-2
Released to mark the Medici Quartet’s 25th anniversary, these discs comprise performances of works featured in the Channel 4 TV documentary series Music and the Mind.


Shostakovich’s Eighth Quartet is distinctly less red in tooth and claw than we’ve grown to expect; these players don’t explore its lurid sound-world of cataclysm and catharsis much beyond externals. Janácek’s Tolstoy-inspired first quartet, the Kreutzer Sonata, sounds uncommonly monochromatic, its murderous intent shrouded in a circumspection that weakens its impact. The Medici performance is easily outclassed by Tokyo and Juilliard Quartet versions issued earlier this year.


Smetana’s Quartet No. 1, From My Life, is played with expertise and a certain four-square rigour, which is more apparent (and damaging) in the Ravel String Quartet in F; neither is recommendable. Britten’s Third Quartet receives a serviceable performance here, probably the finest on these discs; the playing is imaginatively eventful and technically polished. Tryggvi Tryggvason’s recorded sound is, as always, entirely beyond reproach. Michael Jameson