Shostakovich: String Quartet No. 4; String Quartet No. 7; Piano Quintet in G minor

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COMPOSERS: Shostakovich
LABELS: Linn
WORKS: String Quartet No. 4; String Quartet No. 7; Piano Quintet in G minor
PERFORMER: Ian Brown (piano)Schidlof Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: CKD 065
Compliant ears could happily succumb to the superficial glitz and polish of these performances, but there are crucial shortcomings here. Consider Shostakovich’s Quartet No. 7: oblique, seemingly perfunctory, but infused with a cryptic, care-worn message which still troubles long after the music has ended. The Schidlof plays capably enough, but its detachment has the obliging curtness of some inter-departmental memo, transmitting the architecture, without scanning the paradoxical subtext behind the notes. Similarly, in Quartet No. 4 nothing heard suggests thinly concealed angst in the jaunty, proletarian folklorism of the opening Allegretto, or the Klezmer-tinted finale, though the desolate Andantino is sensitively done, with eloquent playing from cellist Oleg Kogan. At best, patchy performances of these two quartets; deeper insight and stronger resolve confirms the Sibelius Academy Quartet’s ongoing Finlandia survey as the best of the moment.

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Ian Brown joins the Schidlof in an attractive account of Shostakovich’s engaging G minor Piano Quintet. Big melodies with strong populist appeal mean this rarely disappoints on disc, and Ian Brown’s eager, lusty pianism sparks keen response from the Schidlof, which sound rather more committed in the highlight of this uneven issue. Sonics, from audio manufacturer Linn Records, are predictably outstanding. Michael Jameson