Shostakovich: String Quartet No. 3; String Quartet No. 7; String Quartet No. 8

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Shostakovich
LABELS: EMI
ALBUM TITLE: Shostakovich
WORKS: String Quartet No. 3; String Quartet No. 7; String Quartet No. 8
PERFORMER: St Lawrence Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: 359 9562
Following the Hagen Quartet’s recent

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provocative DG release of the same

works (reviewed in July), one could be

forgiven for thinking that the present

recording is likely to be surplus to

requirements. Yet hearing both discs

side by side reinforces my conviction

that these masterpieces can

accommodate diametrically different

interpretative approaches. Whereas

the Hagens present a somewhat

detached view of the music, the

St Lawrence Quartet, recorded in a

fairly dry acoustic, opt for powerful

emotive playing, more in the manner

of the marvellous St Petersburg

Quartet versions for Hyperion.

There are no chinks of light in

the neo-classical first movement of

the Third Quartet played here in

a deliberately dour but convincing

manner. Inexplicably the ensemble

fails to observe the exposition repeat,

a decision that robs the movement

of its structural logic and dramatic

coherence. The performance is

strong in the central movements,

though one moment of dubious

intonation in the opening unison

passage of the Adagio could ideally

have been ironed out.

For the Seventh and Eighth

Quartets, the St Lawrence take much

broader tempos than the Hagens

in the respective slow movements.

This ploy is especially effective in the

Lento of the Seventh which evokes

the bleakest of landscapes and makes

the ensuing torrent of aggression of

the fugal development all the more

shattering. Surprisingly it is less

convincing in the first, fourth and

fifth movements of the Eighth which

seem to get bogged down in places

with a rather self-conscious use of

rubato. Nonetheless, for all these

misgivings I enjoyed this disc, even

if it doesn’t match the Hagen or

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St Petersburg Quartets. Erik Levi