Ravel, Smetana, Shostakovich, Jan‡cek, Britten

Our rating 
2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

COMPOSERS: Britten,Janacek,Ravel,Shostakovich,Smetana
LABELS: Koch
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.

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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.

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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