In the penultimate volume of its complete cycle of the Shostakovich string quartets, the Mandelring Quartet begins tackling the dark, ominous quartets composed in the last years of Shostakovich's life. By the time Shostakovich was writing the Tenth Quartet, his health was rapidly deteriorating and he was increasingly called upon to deliver speeches and statements with which he did not often agree. This dark period in the composer's life directly translates into his music, especially his string quartets. From the seemingly innocuous beginning of the Tenth to the frenetic, insect-like tumult of the Twelfth (in which he even experimented with twelve-tone serialism) to the lyrical homage of the Fourteenth, these works offer great interpretive and technical challenges to performers. As in previous volumes, the Mandelring Quartet meets all of these challenges and continues to exceed expectations. Its playing can be quite dry and brusque, which makes it an ideal choice for the aggressive, ferocious moments in these late quartets. But they are also equally capable of producing a glass-like stillness when called for by the composer. Balance in the ensemble is superb, and every note in every instrument is far more audible than in cycles produced by other quartets. Audite's sound is clear and present; listeners using multichannel SACD sound will be treated to a performance as if they are seated in the midst of the quartet.
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AllMusic Review by Mike D. Brownell
|String Quartet No. 10 in A flat, Op. 118|
|String Quartet No. 12 in D flat major, Op. 133|
|String Quartet No. 14 in F sharp major, Op. 142|