Title - 'Shostakovich: Complete String Quartets'
Artist - Borodin Quartet
For those not in the know, Dmitri Shostakovich was a Russian composer and pianistand is still today regarded as one of the major composers of the 20th century.
Shostakovich achieved fame in the Soviet Union under the patronage of Soviet chief of staff Mikhail Tukhachevsky, but later had a complex and difficult relationship with the government.
Nevertheless, he received accolades and state awards and served in the Supreme Soviet of the RSFSR (1947) and the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union (from 1962 until his death).
A polystylist, Shostakovich developed a hybrid voice, combining a variety of different musical techniques into his works. His music is characterized by sharp contrasts, elements of the grotesque, and ambivalent tonality; the composer was also heavily influenced by the neo-classical style pioneered by Igor Stravinsky, and (especially in his symphonies) by the late Romanticism of Gustav Mahler.
Shostakovich's orchestral works include 15 symphonies and six concerti. His chamber output includes 15 string quartets, a piano quintet, two piano trios, and two pieces for string octet.
His solo piano works include two sonatas, an early set of preludes, and a later set of 24 preludes and fugues. Other works include three operas, several song cycles, ballets, and a substantial quantity of film music; especially well known is The Second Waltz, Op. 99, music to the film The First Echelon (1955–1956), as well as the suites of music composed for The Gadfly.
The Borodin Quartet is a string quartet that was founded in 1945 in the then Soviet Union. It is one of the world's longest-lasting string quartets, having marked its 70th-anniversary season in 2015.
The quartet was one of the Soviet Union's best known in the West during the Cold War era, through recordings as well as concert performances in the United States and Europe.
The quartet had a close relationship with composer Dmitri Shostakovich, who personally consulted them on each of his quartets. They also performed with the pianist Sviatoslav Richter on many occasions. They have recorded all of Shostakovich's string quartets as well as all of Beethoven's quartets.
Their other recordings include works by a wide range of composers on the Melodiya, Teldec, Virgin Records, and Chandos Records labels.
The original Borodin quartet's sound was characterized by an almost symphonic volume and a highly developed ability to phrase while maintaining group cohesion. Although it has seen many personnel changes in its lifespan, all quartet members have been graduates of the Moscow Conservatory.
On Shostakovich: Complete String Quartets (released via Decca Classics), the Borodin Quartet present the definitive 7CD collection of Dmitri Shostakovich's works for String Quartet.
No. 1 in C mino, op. 49
No. 2 in A major, op 68
No. 3 in F major, op 73
No. 4 in D major, op 83
No. 5 in B flat major, op 92
No. 6 in G major, op 101
No. 7 in F sharp minor, op 108
No. 8 in C minor, op110
No. 9 in E flat major, op 117
No. 10 in A flat major, op 118
No. 11 in F minor, op 122
No. 12 in D flat major, op 133
No. 13 in B flat minor, op 138
No. 14 in F sharp major, op 142
No. 15 in E flat minor, op 144
Piano Quintet in G minor, op 57
Allegretto in E flat major (Unfinished quartet movement)
Adagio (Elegy) & Allegretto (Polka), op 36a
Music from the film Podrugi, op 41a
With over seven and a half hours of new recordings unrivaled in their authority and authenticity, the Borodin Quartet have a unique, historical and personal connection to Shostakovich.
The Quartet's association with Shostakovich's chamber music is intensely personal, since it was stimulated by a close relationship with the composer, who personally supervised its study of each of his quartets.
Widely regarded as definitive interpretations, the idea of performing a complete cycle of Shostakovich's quartets originated with the Borodin Quartet.
This collection includes rarities such as the Borodin Quartet's debut recording of the "Unfinished Quartet" and live recordings of "Podrugi (The Girlfriends) Preludes" for string quartet, trumpet and piano.
This incredible cycle of all fifteen quartets was recorded for Decca in Moscow from 2014 to 2018. Without beating around the bush, this box-set is EXCELLENT.
At times dark, full-bodied and resonant, other times breezy, confident and uplifting, comparing these new recordings to the 1967 recordings of quartets 1-13 on Chandos; as well as the selected quartets recorded in 1990 for Virgin, is like deciding what to watch between a VHS tape of Star Wars or a brand new 4K Ultra HD version!
Regardless, I have listened to them all for years and now I have this wondrous box-set to take their place. Not replace hem, of course, just take their place in what to reach for should the Shostakovich mood compel me to.
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