Shostakovich: String Quartet No. 2; String Quartet No. 12

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COMPOSERS: Shostakovich
LABELS: Virgin
WORKS: String Quartet No. 2; String Quartet No. 12
PERFORMER: Borodin String Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: VC 7 59281 2 DDD
From the late Thirties onwards, Shostakovich turned increasingly to the string quartet as a medium for expressing more personal ideas than those demanded of the leading Soviet symphonist. The Second Quartet (1944), almost a suite in format, combines pages of straightforward lyricism with others of rigorous dialectic: that these successfully co-exist, andeven interact, is a mark of his compositional mastery. This is rarely comfortable music, its underlying tensions all the more troubling for the clarity of language in which they are expressed.

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The later Twelfth Quartet (1968) represents a more economical and more introverted composer,increasingly inventive in his approach to quartet writing and intent on exploring a world that is emotionally even less certain.

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Both works are superbly played here, the Borodin Quartet’s unanimity of approach, finely shaded vibrato and depth of tone all allowing the music’s eloquence to speak for itself. With their long experience of playing together (the quartet was established in 1946, and has had its current line-up since 1974), they form as fine an interpretative ensemble as one could wish for. Further, they sound completely inside the music, both technically and conceptually. The recording has been expertly done; the presence of the musicians is immediate. George Hall