These three works appear to be chronologically written and there is a doom and gloom about them that almost transcends human feeling. The disc is also a fitting end to the glorious Shostakovich cycle by the St. Petersburg String Quartet who have constantly reached the higher echelons of interpretation in these seminal quartets.
The Piano Trio opens with a mournful and harrowing piece for violin that then brings in the other instruments creating a cacophony of darkness. Undoubtedly inspired by the horrifying destruction and human toll on the Russian nation, it tells its grim story particularly well. Uryash is a sympathetic interpreter and the formidable Aranovskaya on the violin and Leonid Shukaev's cello are definitely a class act.
Robert Matthew Walker writes that the String Quartet #1 is the most approachable of the cycle and it is indeed hard to believe that the same artist composed the Sixteenth, such is the transformation throughout the works. At just less than a quarter of an hour, the First is a delightful example of melody and fine construction with the four movements fusing together quite seamlessly. The St. Petersburg Quartet is quite obviously on hand to provide another brilliant interpretation.
The disc concludes with a harrowing and highly emotional performance of the Piano Quintet in G minor, Op. 57. Uryash is again a key factor and the five movements are imbued with the urgency of wartime, coming from 1940, a year of enigmas in battle. The Fugue is particularly interesting here talking more than a quarter of the music on its own and it is full of sorrowful laments that really are seminal Shostakovich all the way.
This is now the definite modern cycle of Shostakovich String Quartets and one can also hope that the same players will perhaps explore more chamber music, as the results on this recording are quite harrowing. A finely balanced recording and expert notes by Robert Matthew Walker set the seal on this impeccably played disc.
Copyright © 2004, Gerald Fenech