Valentin Berlinsky String Quartet

Shostakovich: String Quartet No. 3; Beethoven: Rasumovsky Quartet, Op. 59/2

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Both pieces on this release by the Valentin Berlinsky Quartet, part of an ongoing series of Shostakovich/Beethoven pairings, have been played often enough, but they've rarely been played together. Shostakovich and Beethoven in general make a good pair, with each of them tracing individual structures of feeling against a backdrop of dramatic historical events. Even better, the String Quartet No. 3 in F major, Op. 73, of Shostakovich, a profound work written just after World War II, is among the most Beethovenian of the composer's works, with its intricate first-movement structure, biting scherzos, lyrical slow movement, and use of counterpoint to suggest transcendence (however troubled in this case) in the finale. Best of all, the Valentin Berlinsky Quartet here delivers the critical final step in intelligent programming: not only putting works together that have something to say to each other, but having them mutually influence the respective performances. Listen to the Beethoven String Quartet in E minor, Op. 59/2, the second of the set of three "Rasumovsky" quartets. All three of those works, but especially this one, are generally presented as chamber music counterparts to the heroic symphonies of Beethoven's middle period, as intense, broadly tragic works. Here, Op. 59/2, becomes a kind of Shostakovich quartet: quick, minatory, nervous. The sum total is a pair of performances that add up to more than the sum of their individual values, and to a strong quartet recital.

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