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Shostakovich Quartets 8 & 9 Aviv String Quartet

Dalia Classics DCD 001 [49 mins]

These live recordings from 2002 & 2003 fully confirm the excellent impression these Israeli players made recently at Wigmore Hall - for fuller information, including links to listen to them in complete concerts, please click onto my report at http://www.musicalpointers.co.uk/reviews/liveevents/AVIV_QUARTET.htm.

The 8th quartet is a key work and often considered as a secret autobiographical document about his life and feelings as 'a prisoner under the Soviet system'. It is a cryptic 'suicide note' (1960) by a composer who did not kill himself. In the five movements of No 9 (1964), played without a break, Shostakovich responded affirmatively to a diagnosis of incurable illness. You won't need another recording of them; I expect you already have one of the 8th, but the 9th is heard less often.

A fine CD which reinforces hopes to hear the Aviv Quartet live again very soon.
(The record number needed use of a high powered magnifying glass! Are all record presentation people young and with perfect vision?)

See also Tim Ashley in The Guardian:
- - Shostakovich's Ninth Quartet came after the interval. Again the structure is daunting: the Quartet plays as a single, whole, its first four sections providing the thematic material for a massive finale that draws its disparate threads together. It can easily fail in performance if the cumulative momentum is lost at any point, though in this instance it formed an unbroken arch of sound that veered from pained nostalgia via explosive violence and morbid humour to hard-won triumph. An impressive evening that marked the Aviv String Quartet out as a force to be reckoned with. (Wigmore Hall, London January 7, 2004)

Shostakovich Quartets Nos 6, 13 & 3

Wigmore Hall 17 January 2006

Sergey Ostrovsky - Violin I Evgenia Epshtein - Violin II
Rachel Mercer - Cello Shuli Waterman - Viola

The Aviv Quartet has returned to Wigmore Hall for three Shostakovich Centenary recitals this week, and they were being recorded for BBC Radio3.

The quality and character of their playing and ensemble as previously described has been maintained and high expectations were more than fulfilled. The scale of their projection is ideally attuned to Wigmore Hall, making for satisfying listening.

Shostakovich's chamber music poses more questions than it answers and the moods are often private and equivocal. As David Fanning asks, is the seeming simplicity of No 6 actual or 'a comment on longing for simplicity', its'wanly smiling quality - - a wish to believe in the possibility of domestic bliss'? And what of each movement's 'whimsical cadence'?

No 20th C composer provides more food for fascinated speculation, whilst keeping the listener alert to what may be under the surface. No 13 (1970, transcribed by A Tchaikovsky as Sinfonia for Viola and Strings) followed hospital treatment and featured Shuli Waterman's viola, its predominantly sorrowful tone counterpointed in an incongruously jazzy dance section with bows tapping on the body of the instruments. Thoughts of mortality... The whole work ended with a shriek, which perhaps could have been even more emphatic?

No 3 took us back to 1946, a time when Soviet writers were under crisis, soon to engulf the troubled country's composers. Its haunting conclusion was of ineffable beauty and a sort of calm; after audience acclamation, chased away by a jokey Polka from 'The Golden Age' ballet.

Perhaps better instead to have left the near-capacity audience to hurry and get tickets for the other recitals in the series, likely to be sell-outs?


© Peter Grahame Woolf