There have been two concurrent cycles of Shostakovich string quartets going on lately on Chandos (Sorrel Quartet) and Hyperion with the magnificent St. Petersburg String Quartet that promises to be the best cycle ever since the ground breaking Aeolian String Quartet on Decca in the mid-70's.
Here we have three of the latest, more pensive works in the cycle with the minor keys particularly predominant. Quartet #11 in F minor is a very pessimistic work indeed and the St. Petersburg String Quartet are very much attuned to the undercurrents that permeate this seven-movement work. Quartet #13 is a one-movement tour-de-force that rather resembles Prokofieff's Second Symphony for utter savagery and deep painful passion.
The final work on the programme is the 15th Quartet, written in 1974 just two years before the composer died and is naturally full of depressive and deeply introspective music rather similar to the 11th which must have the Babi Yar massacre in mind. As already mooted, the interpretations are second-to-none and this is now undoubtedly the most desirable modern cycle of these incomparable chamber works.
Copyright © 2002, Gerald Fenech