so soon after the similar Capriccio disc which coupled Quartets
Nos. 1 and 4 with the Piano Quintet (see review),
this Chandos issue offers fascinating scope for comparison
– and wins on just about every count.
Sorrel Quartet play with exceptional technical security coupled
with a real feeling for the music. They are able to project
the full run of emotions the composer evokes – and it is the
full gamut – because they are so obviously on Shostakovich's
with the first quartet, it is the recording's depth that is
the first thing to strike the listener. This is expert engineering,
all in the service of the players' focus and concentration.
Pianissimi have a rapt quality about them, and when Shostakovich
pares his textures down in the second movement it is heart-stopping.
Yet the Allegro molto third movement buzzes with energy. Only
the finale could benefit from more earthiness.
the Petersen Quartet added the Fourth Quartet, the Sorrel
has opted for the Twelfth of some thirty years later. There
is an interesting disjunction between Eric Roseberry's booklet
note, which refers to the 'calm D flat tonality of the first
movement'. The Sorrel Quartet adds to this calm a soupçon
of disquiet that is most appropriate. Most importantly there
is a sense that the Sorrel Quartet knows the score intimately,
a sureness of foot (or feet) as to where it is all going.
contrast in the longer second movement (the quartet is proportioned
7'41 then 21'20) is huge. The trills of the opening are positively
diabolic in nature; for some reason the recording seems closer
here. The ensuing energy is very slightly blunted, however.
Still, in the context of the sweep of the whole performance
this is petty whinging. The Sorrel Quartet is infinitely responsive,
pointing out the modernism (try around 5'10 of this second
movement) with great relish. The Twelfth is a challenge for
performers and listeners alike – certainly the Sorrels pass
with flying colours.
the Piano Quintet. Here the Chandos release confirms its superiority
to the Capriccio one. Martin Roscoe is, I have long felt,
an under-appreciated national treasure, unfailingly musical
in all he does. He does not disappoint, and his 'tidiness
of finger' really impresses in the finale. The highlight of
this performance is the threadbare Fugue, whispered conspiratorially
at first and rising naturally to its climax. Roscoe can be
so delicate here. For 11'01, time is suspended before the
spiky Scherzo brings us all back to earth. The recording seems
a little boomy in this Scherzo.
is in the gentler parts that this performance really triumphs.
Perhaps some more echt-Slavic utterance in the first movement
- so nearly granitic here - would have clinched it. But this
remains a most impressive release.