Mandelring Quartet

Shostakovich: Complete String Quartets

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Recorded between 2005 and 2009, and released as separate discs, the Mandelring Quartet's recordings of the complete string quartets of Dmitry Shostakovich have received considerable critical praise and a growing audience. Audite's 2011 box set of the cycle is sure to garner even more accolades, for this is really one of the finest contemporary sets available, and the convenience of having all five CDs together in a trimline box with a generous booklet adds value to an already stunning musical offering. The Mandelring Quartet plays with unflinching resolve, sympathetic expression, incisive attacks, and penetrating tone, which are all necessary in Shostakovich's sardonic and frequently bitter language. The group really digs into the music to reveal all the pain and grief that underlie the surface vitality and brilliance, and is especially impressive in the last five string quartets, which are some of the darkest works Shostakovich ever conceived. The recording is spacious and vibrant, and its lovely acoustic quality may seem to take away some of the quartet's edginess and immediacy, but the Mandelring Quartet still communicates everything it intends, and there are many awe-inspiring passages where the ensemble brings its full force to bear on the listener, sparing nothing. Highly recommended.

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