Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Fitzwilliam Quartet
"Shostakovich: String Quartet nos. 1, 2" (CD)

The Fitzwilliam Quartet has the distinction (from only basic research) of having recorded the first complete cycle of Shostakovich's string quartets, plus having given the western premiere of his three final quartets.

The quartet was founded in 1968 while students at Cambridge and were befriended by Shostakovich during a visit by the composer to New York.  Their recording of his 15th string quartet was personally supervised by Shostakovich himself.

Their playing is markedly different from how many quartets would perform today.  The first violinist on these records takes a striking, almost offensive approach, removing what we would consider "beauty" from his approach to the music and instead tries to translate Shostakovich's emotional grappling with more visceral, violent techniques.  Its a nice change from so many quartets that can play everything well, but often say anything unique.

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