Sometimes a review goes by the wayside, and becomes seemingly impossible to find. We’re happy to share some excerpts from one such review that we recently unearthed — Dominy Clements’ review of our Shostakovich Fragments, Vol. 1 & 2 recordings. It’s now officially back on the MusicWeb International site, so take a look at some of the quotes below, and then visit MusicWebInternational.com.
“I’ve come to appreciate how, as with their survey of the Beethoven Quartets, this ensemble clearly approaches the music with a view to its place in the composer’s timeline as well as purely on musical/aesthetic grounds…they…allow the sunnier aspects of the music to sing through in the Quartet No. 1, with those shades of angst held well in proportion…Zakarias Grafilio[‘s]…fine, deep tone gives the second movement’s Recitative a strong character, lightening like the opening of a stained-glass window into the faux-naive Romance which follows. The final Adagio Theme with Variations begins with a…more gentle openinging allow[ing] the music to develop and grow, the full impact of the final bars providing a true climax.
On Quartet No. 3: “[I] admire their sense of apocalyptic passion where the music demands, and their elegance of tone in the relatively high-pitched tessitura in this quartet.”
On Quartet No. 5: “I won’t say the Alexander Quartet make it sound easy, but neither do they seem fazed by the extremes in the first movements. It is in this magisterial mastery of such technical obstacles that they win out over many other recordings, the tonalities remaining clear even when everyone seems to be trying to play as high as possible all at once… The Alexander players stroke the softer phrases with appropriate affection, but don’t hold back on some of the passages of conflict and strange passion in the opening Allegretto. The contrasting lyrical and rhythmic characters in the second movement are highly attractive, just the right amount of symbolism – if that’s what you are looking for: like two opposites which somehow attract and harmonise.”
On Quartet No. 7: “The energy in the Allegro molto and Allegretto movements is high octane, and all the elements are present to keep bringing you back for more. The sheer texture in the sound of the quartet is worth mentioning here, but is of course valid for the whole set. All important is the resonant power of Sandy Wilson’s cello, underpinning the harmonies, but also capable of rattling your tonsillectomy scars at moments like the ferocious chords in the first of the two Lento movements in No.8.”
On Quartet No. 8: “Back to Shostakovich’s Quartet No.8, and it is clear that this ensemble have played this music until it has become engraved upon the whorls of their fingerprints. There are myriad other recordings, each with their own strengths, but as the music evolved I felt loath to drag them all in for post-mortem analysis. Rest assured, I promise this recording will do you just fine.”
“With the Alexander String Quartet we are also in for the long haul, and these are certainly recordings to which you will be more likely to want to return and explore…I for one am however happy finally to have found a new ‘studio’ cycle of the Shostakovich string quartets which is the equal of the best in the current catalogue, and which both complements and challenges all those old favourites. To mix up a few metaphors, anyone seeking desert-island satisfaction should be able buy these recordings, and draw up the gangplank for a long time to come.” — Dominy Clements MusicWeb International
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