Shostakovich: String Quartet No. 1 in C; String Quartet No. 4 in D; String Quartet No. 8 in C minor

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COMPOSERS: Shostakovich
LABELS: Globe
WORKS: String Quartet No. 1 in C; String Quartet No. 4 in D; String Quartet No. 8 in C minor
PERFORMER: Rubio String Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: GLO 5157
The Rubio Quartet brings together four young Flemish musicians, collectively named after Cambridge-based luthier David Rubio, whose instruments are played by the ensemble. Their paper credentials seem impressive; they’ve worked with the Cleveland, Emerson and Melos Quartets, and have scooped a fistful of prestigious awards. This debut recording for the Dutch label Globe raises the curtain on another new Shostakovich cycle.

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But current rivalry is fierce and on this showing the Rubio is comfortably eclipsed by the Eder (Naxos) and Sibelius Academy (Finlandia) quartets. Its account of Shostakovich’s First Quartet goes quite well, but the work’s technical hurdles are few, and its genial neo-classical mood is not easy to misjudge. The Rubio is way off target in the Fourth; the Sibelians explore Shostakovich’s agenda of protest and regret eloquently, and the Eder finds disquieting angst in the cryptic Jewish references. The autobiographical Eighth Quartet simply runs out of steam; the Rubio has neither the iron resolve nor the technical stamina to turn in anything beyond a pretty average run-through. Decent, if unflatteringly close recorded sound – otherwise a poor start to this series. Michael Jameson