Shostakovich: The String Quartets (6 CD, FLAC)
Shostakovich: The String Quartets (6 CD, FLAC)

Performer: Fitzwilliam String Quartet
Composer: Dmitry Shostakovich
Audio CD
SPARS Code: ADD
Number of Discs: 6 CD box set
Format: FLAC (tracks)
Label: Decca
Size: 1.64 GB
Recovery: +3%
Scan: yes

CD 1
String Quartet No. 1 in C major, Op. 49
String Quartet No. 2 in A major, Op. 68

CD 2
String Quartet No. 3 in F major, Op. 73
String Quartet No. 4 in D major, Op. 83

CD 3
String Quartet No. 5 in B flat major, Op. 92
String Quartet No. 6 in G major, Op. 101
String Quartet No. 7 in F sharp minor, Op. 108

CD 4
String Quartet No. 8 in C minor, Op. 110
String Quartet No. 9 in E flat major, Op. 117
String Quartet No. 10 in A flat, Op. 118

CD5
String Quartet No. 11 in F minor, Op. 122
String Quartet No. 12 in D flat major, Op. 133
String Quartet No. 13 in B flat minor, Op. 138

CD 6
String Quartet No. 14 in F sharp major, Op. 142
String Quartet No. 15 in E flat minor, Op. 144

Shostakovich: We Need Him More Than Ever Now

As with all of Shostakovich’s works, this is the music of protest–against tyranny and torture; against the expected and dreaded “knock on the door”; against disinformation masquerading as factual truth; against greed, lust for power and fatuity in High Places; against the (seeming) Omnipotence of Death. But, unlike the Symphonies and other orchestral works, his String Quartets are intensely personal and private utterances. As with Beethoven’s Late Quartets, those of Shostakovich “speak from the heart.” Yet it was a deeply troubled heart, and the manner of “speaking” is often, strangely detached, even cerebral, as if the composer was deperately trying not to hide the secrets he was hiding. As Jacques Derrida, the great post-structuralist philosopher put it, “the Secret is…There is no Secret.”

This ambiguous playing about the surface of many secrets is discerned and conveyed with harrowing sang-froid by the Fitzwilliam Quartet. These works do not benefit from any hyping of the emotional subtext, or any italicizing of their “modernist” (and latterly, in the final trio of quartets one might say “postmodern”) qualities. The Fitzwilliams play them straight, with just the right pose of seeming “detachment,” that hides (and also reveals) a multitude of sorrows. Their ensemble playing conveys total unanimity of purpose and tonal quality. Other quartets, such as the Borodins, may impress with greater vehemence and virtuosity; but the Fitzwelliams never weigh down this predominantly elusive music with attention-grabbing rhetoric or dazzle the listener with feats of technical showmanship. They are at one with the music, and with the composer.

And the results are devastating–and, paradoxically, uplifting. For this body of work is a courageous and sustaine protest against the mind-numbing and soul-destroying Absurdities with which human existence, especially in places such as the Soviet Union, is ever fringed.

We need him more than ever now.

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