string quartets playing Shostakovich seem to be a pretty commonplace
occurrence these days – on the subject of which, my review
of the Sorrel Quartet on Chandos playing a remarkably similar
programme is appearing simultaneously (see review).
on the present Capriccio release, the booklet gives a biography
of the quartet but contents itself with a photo of Kupiec.
A shame, as by implication this seems to diminish the stature
of the Piano Quintet, almost as if their 'guest' is an afterthought.
Actually, the Quintet receives a competent performance, enjoyable
at the time without displacing allegiance to the two recordings
by the Borodin Quartet, with guests Leonskaja and Richter.
The work itself is wonderful, premiered by the composer himself
(with the Glazunov Quartet).
and the Petersen Quartet give an account of the opening Lento
that is fairly determined without entering into Richter-like
ruggedness. As the performance continues, it becomes clear
that the strings are more committed than the pianist, and
it is the Quartet's maintenance of a concentrated atmosphere
that really impresses. Their extended pianissimo in the Adagio
Fugue is breathtaking. It is in the fugue that they project
a sense of desolate space. By keeping it so hushed, the listener
is forced to participate, to strain.
shame therefore that the Scherzo is rather tame, and it is
here that the recording reveals itself to be close but insubstantial
as well. The sense of bleak inevitability around the Intermezzo
is good, and the projection of the finale's mood as happy
in a suppressed ‘undertoney’ way is enjoyable. This is confirmed
by the sweetly shadowy close.
himself referred to his First Quartet as 'vernal', and there
is a real sense of freshness about it. The Petersen Quartet
emphasises this aspect, holding back warmth from the opening
in favour of a more open sound. They are in no rush – this
is as laid back as the ensuing grazioso. Only the finale seems
a little damp.
quartet finally find the depth of expression required in the
slow movement of the Fourth Quartet (an Andantino), where
controlled anguish is the order of the day, a thread that
follows through into the shadowy, shifting third movement.
A shame they do not keep it up as the finale again, while
being fairly dynamic, needs that little bit more.
mixed disc, then, that only intermittently cuts the Shostakovichian