Classical CD Reviews
SHOSTAKOVICH: String Quartet No. 6 in G Major, Op. 101; String Quartet No. 8 in C Minor, Op. 110; String Quartet No. 11 in F Minor, Op. 122 – Jerusalem Quartet – Harmonia mundi
Published on May 19, 2007
I began this audition with the F Minor Quartet No. 11 (1965), written in memory of Vasily Shirlinsky, second violin of the Beethoven String Quartet. A fateful, recurrent motif infiltrates the seven movements, which are brief but contain concentrated bits of Beethoven and Bartok. The titles – like Recitatif, Etude, Humoresque, and Elegie – place this eerie music within contexts in the Schumann vein, except that a savagery of emotion of which Schumann hardly dreamt urges itself forward. Repeated notes and slicing attacks provide harsh ironies in the Humoresque, where some dark sobriety is interrupted by the second violin’s cuckoo call. The Elegie becomes funereal, moving to the violin’s lowest string, contrasted by the hymnal Finale, which moves to an aerial C Major, which then dissipates into thin air.
Shostakovich’s Sixth Quartet in G (1956) has a glowing, luminous surface, but dark undercurrents creep into the harmonies. The middle section of the first movement becomes frenzied and aggressive, featuring a penetrating tune in F-sharp Minor. There are moments of ingenuous Borodin or Dvorak. The E-flat Moderato con moto is rather classically wrought, with a menuet-valse quality that proves highly symmetrical in the part-writing. The B Minor central section is ghostly. Violin Alexander Pavlovsky makes some telling points here. More than once, Bartok’s “pairs” from the Concerto for Orchestra seems a strong influence. A tender dirge-like passacaglia in B-flat Minor seems to march into our memories, with Kyril Zlotnikov’s cello in low relief. A long solo violin, then a ramble, spiccato, with some recollections of the passacaglia. Moody, restless, the music finds a poignant urgency with these Jerusalem players. Brilliant sound engineering from Philipp Knop.
The Eighth Quartet in C Minor (1960) is the composer’s Dresden elegy, written for the victims of fascism and a memorial for himself. Utilizing an anagram of his own name and numerous quotations from his own works, as well as allusions to Wagner and Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich fashioned a sort of chamber music Ein Heldenleben, but intensely sincere and tragic. The jabbing motif from his First Symphony seems more melancholy than ever, the savage interruptions and frenzies (of the Allegro movement) more devastating. The segue to the sarcastic Allegretto and its etched references to the E-flat Cello Concerto is a thing of beauty. Wicked chords open the first of the two Largos that conclude this grieved piece. The first could provide musical commentary on a bleak, wartime landscape. The second grows directly out of the first, a lachrymosa from a personal requiem, a veil of tears for a tortured world.
– Gary Lemco