Aside from providing income for Rudolf Barshai, what purpose was served by his having arranged Shostakovich's String Quartets No. 3 and No. 4 for chamber orchestra? One could understand and accept his arrangements of Shostakovich's Eighth and Tenth quartets for string orchestra: the intention was sincere, the tone color was the same, and even the composer approved them. But what purpose is served by scoring the Third and Fourth quartets for winds and brass and percussion including xylophone? Do the arrangements add anything to works that are already ideally scored except more colors and more volume?
In this 2005 recording by Jean-Jacques Kantorow and the Tapiola Sinfonetta, Barshai's arrangements of Shostakovich's Third and Fourth quartets do in fact add something to the works: a pair of powerful, passionate, and persuasive performances. Kantorow and the Tapiola create performances that not only transcribe Shostakovich's music, they transform it, turning chamber works into compelling orchestral works. So convincing are their performances, so sensitive to phrasing and so sympathetic to the forms, that the listener all but forgets the music's original scoring and hears only Shostakovich's heartrending music. BIS' recorded sound is as always the acme of recorded sound.