Contrary to received wisdom, you don't have to be Russian to play Shostakovich -- sometimes you can even be English. Remember the affectionate set of the complete string quartets recorded by the Fitzwilliam Quartet back while the composer was still alive? Remember the edgy set of the quartets recorded by the Brodsky Quartet back in 1989? Remember this expressive program of chamber music -- the Piano Quintet with the Second Piano Trio plus Four Waltzes arranged for flute, clarinet, and piano -- played by England's Nash Ensemble from 1993?
If not, here's your chance. Available only briefly outside the U.K., this 2007 reissue by Virgin returned it to international distribution. What makes the Nash's performances English? Is it the intellectual intensity of the quintet's Fugue, the acrid wit of the trio's closing Allegretto, the artless whimsy of the Waltz Scherzo from the Boult arranged for flute and piano? Is it the supple strength of the strings, the quirky wit of the winds, the polished power of the piano? Is it the balanced but blended textures, the buoyant but controlled tempos, the purposeful but contained expressivity? While it might be difficult to say exactly what it is that makes these performances English, it is necessary to say exactly how effective and even compelling they are. Recorded in richly colorful but slightly dry sound, anyone but Shostakovich purist will surely enjoy these performances.