Wigmore Hall Shostakovich Quartets – 5

String Quartet No.11 in F minor, Op.122
String Quartet No.4 in D, Op.83
String Quartet No.10 in A flat, Op.118

Jerusalem Quartet
[Alexander Pavlovsky & Sergei Bresler (violins), Amihai Grosz (viola) & Kyril Zlotnikov (cello)]

Reviewed by: Andrew Toovey

Reviewed: 23 February, 2006
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Occasionally a magical combination occurs at a concert that reminds forcefully why live music is so important.

Following numerous performances of Shostakovich symphonies, it was refreshing to hear these intense chamber works unfold in such detailed and distinguished performances from the Jerusalem Quartet, every nuance carefully thought about, from beautifully shaped melodic playing to careful articulation of pizzicatos and chordal balance between the instruments, aided by the superb Wigmore Hall acoustic, in which the most subtle details are always apparent.

Quartet No.11 (1966) opened the recital with its hauntingly beautiful melodies, anticipating the sparseness of the later quartets. Alexander Pavlovsky made his solos sound like meaningful diary entries – dark and brooding. The Fourth Quartet (1949) by contrast begins with weaving melodies in the violins with a drone from viola and cello – gradually bringing out, in the later movements, the folk-like inspiration. The Jerusalem Quartet really understands the pacing and structure of this work – although in four movements it is like one ongoing thread, which here captivated the audience; you could hear a pin drop.

As well as an excellent audience in terms of listening and not making noise, David Fanning’s programme note captured each work perfectly, an excellent primer regarding various historical, biographical and musical aspects.

The final quartet of the concert was No.10 (1964) – the second movement (Allegretto furioso) bringing an outburst of brash, thrusting music. The pause before the passacaglia third movement was really quite long – time needed to recover from the onslaught. This work has a consistent depth of emotional intensity, a profound sense of being taken on a dark (or dimly lit) yet sharply focused journey which was complex and very rewarding.

  • The final Shostakovich quartet concert (Jerusalem) is on 25 February
  • Wigmore Hall

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