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Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
String Quartet No. 8 in C minor, Op. 110 (1960) [20:26]
Six Poems by Marina Tsvetaeva, Op. 143 (1973, arr. contralto
and string quartet by Auerbach, 2005) [19:31].
Lera AUERBACH (b. 1973)
Cetera desunt (String Quartet No. 3) (2006) [21'10].
Petersen String Quartet (Conrad Muck, Daniel Bell (violins);
Friedermann Weigle (viola); Henry-David Varema (cello)).
rec. Deutschland Radio Studio K10, 2-4 November 2005, 14-15
March 2006, 29-30 May 2006. SACD DDD
71 104 [61:07]
a year ago I gave a lukewarm response to
the Petersen's disc of Shostakovich First and Fourth Quartets,
coupled with the Piano Quintet. Here again we find the quartet
coupling a Shostakovich quartet with other works – this time
with significantly more striking results.
though, the 'pure' Shostakovich, the famous Eighth Quartet,
possibly the composer's best known work in this medium. I
am sure Rudolf Barshai's arrangement of the work as a Chamber
Symphony has helped. The Eighth is dedicated “To the memory
of the victims of fascism and war” and is an astonishingly moving tribute that speaks of the most heartfelt
humanitarianism. The DSCH motto is prevalent here – unmistakable,
in fact. Another favourite Shostakovich pastime, self-quotation
- which was to reach its zenith in the Fifteenth Symphony
- permeates the music. The Fifth Symphony, the Second Piano
Trio, Lady Macbeth and the First Symphony all crop up, but none as strongly as the First
sound on this disc is stunning. There is a crystalline clarity
to the quartet, yet there is no lack of warmth, no trace
of the clinical. What is more, stretches such as the Allegro
molto - the relentless second
movement, lasting here 2:30 - carry all the vehemence they
deserve, while the recording allows all detail to be heard.
There is never any question of the recording being 'stretched'
by the players' grim determination. The third movement makes
overt reference to the First Cello Concerto while the fourth
combines this with the Lady Macbeth quote
- a work banned since 1936 – the chosen passage is that to
the words “We didn't see each other all day”. The Petersen
Quartet, despite their obvious energy, is actually at its
most impressive in passages of half-light. The brief-ish
finale (3:53) emerges as a profound lament. It is not unrealistic
to at least mention this performance in the same breath as
the truly great accounts of this work.
The Six Poems of Marina Tsvetaeva celebrates
the work of a poetess who sought escape from the authorities
in suicide; her dates are 1892-1941. The first movement
rises naturally out of the ashes of the Eighth Quartet. A
solo line announces the bare melodic statement by the contralto
to the first lines of the first movement, entitled “My Poems”,
in which the poetess avers her certainty that her poetry's
time will come. It is an emotion of hope undermined by the
shifting, definitely dark scoring. Kushpler has exactly the
right plaintive timbre to her voice. The second movement, “Where
does such tenderness come from?”, begins in similar manner.
The question of the title recurs as an insistent refrain
before “Hamlet's Dialogue with Conscience” opens with the
closest we have had so far to a consonance - which is not
the same as saying that it is consonant!
The text is as black as can be, and Shostakovich's setting
is unrelentingly bleak in response. Kushpler articulates
her cries beautifully, never once breaking her tone but still
portraying real anguish. Resolute defiance is the keyword
for “The Poet and the Tsar”; the strings invoke the drum-beat
of the title in the next movement, “No, the drum beat” before
explicit defiance once more comes to the fore. Finally, “To
Anna Akhmatova”, a tribute to the great poetess and a dirge
in all but name. Kushpler is at the height of her powers
Shostakovich's Op. 143 was written in 1973, the year of its
arranger's birth. As you can see from the headnote, the arrangement
itself dates from 2005. Even hotter off the press is the
Third String Quartet, Cetera desunt,
dated 2006! Poetry is clearly important to Auerbach. She
writes of the dangers of writing on one's own compositions
in the booklet! She makes use of the strambiotto
romagnuolo sonnet (ab ab cc dd). Auerbach uses
what she calls “musical rhymes” to
shadow this structure. Auerbach uses Latin in her booklet
notes to identify her creed - “Nomina sunt odiosa”; “Names
are hateful” - Cicero, I think? And yet she uses Latin, too,
in the title of this quartet. It is called “Cetera desunt” - “The
rest is missing” first, and then String Quartet No. 3 in
parentheses. This is also the title of the sixth and final
doubting the DSCH presence at the quartet's opening, though.
Strong and resolute, it heralds Auerbach's own uncompromising
language. Shostakovich rhythms are transformed and emphasised
by slashing violins; her soliloquies are just as potent as
the Master's. Auerbach's language is as concentrated as late
Shostakovich. There is a feeling that the music has been
distilled from a greater whole, something perhaps mirrored
in the title of the final movement.
fascinating disc. The programming shows real individuality;
the recording is top-drawer, the playing first class and
the music both raw and sophisticated at the same time. Do
try to hear this.
Gerard Hoffnung CDs
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