Marc-André Hamelin / Takács String Quartet

Shostakovich: Piano Quintet; String Quartet No. 2

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Both of these Shostakovich chamber works date from the World War II years and coincide with one of the periods in which he enjoyed official favor in the Soviet Union. Neither work reflects the extreme circumstances of the wider society in which they originated in the way that, say, the Piano Trio No. 2 in E minor, Op. 67, does, but the melodic material of the slow movement of the String Quartet No. 2 in A major, Op. 68, might be heard as having a Jewish flavor. That quartet also includes one of the earlier examples of the grim, fatalistic finales that almost defined Shostakovich's style in later years. But paradoxically it is the Piano Quintet in G minor, Op. 57, that carries the richest residues of the external world. This work, more than almost anything else Shostakovich wrote, is concerned with the musical past, primarily the music of Bach and Beethoven. It seems almost to reflect on what the legacy of Western music might mean in the face of the storm clouds gathering over the Soviet Union. The performances of the Hungarian-American Takács Quartet are gripping throughout, but especially so in this quintet, where it is joined by the possibly unexpected figure of Marc-André Hamelin. Highly recommended, evocative early Shostakovich, with excellent sound from England's Wyastone Estate concert hall.

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