Medici Quartet

Dmitri Shostakovich: Octet Pieces; Quartet No. 8; Piano Quintet

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These are Shostakovich recordings from 1986 and 1988; several factors seem to have led to their excavation and revival. One is the fact that the Medici Quartet was a favorite group among chamber music lovers until their career was cut short by the illness of one of their members. This album shows what they can do; they bring the heated, passionate quality to Shostakovich that is often thought to be the province exclusively of Russian groups. Furthermore, the program includes some illuminating pieces of early Shostakovich to go with the repertory works, the Piano Quintet in G minor, Op. 57, and the String Quartet No. 8 in C minor, Op. 110. The entire program holds together exceptionally well, finding traces of the mature Shostakovich even in the early Octet Pieces and Elegy and Polka, productions of the composer's teen years. Probably the high point is the Piano Quintet, which was composed in 1940, but the dark, tragic (until the finale) reading of the Medici Quartet and pianist John Bingham clearly seems to adumbrate the postwar Shostakovich. Sample the Beethovenian fugue. The early CD audio, rarely really satisfying, is degraded further here by a harsh church acoustic, but the album easily passes the test for reissue relevance.

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