Zapolski Quartet

Shostakovich: String Quartets Nos. 2 & 8

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The Zapolski Quartet, Danish despite its name, belies once again its origins in emotionally restrained northwestern Europe with a style that's exuberant, high in contrast, rough, and a bit daring. The Shostakovich String Quartet No. 2 in A major, Op. 68, composed in the midst of World War II, has an extraordinary emotional range, and it fits this ensemble to a T. Beginning with a neo-classic Overture and proceeding to a pleasant Recitative and Romance, the work suddenly takes a turn toward darker realms with the third-movement Valse, a muted piece that settles sepulchrally on the remote key of E flat minor. The final variation set tries to tie all these threads together and explodes with wild energy toward the end. It takes a certain caution-to-the-wind attitude to pull this off, and this is precisely what the Zapolski Quartet has in abundance. It delivers a thrilling ride here, but the soberer String Quartet in C minor, Op. 110, a more familiar work where there are many other choices, is less successful; its exacting elegiac tone doesn't fully come off here. Still, Shostakovich lovers will appreciate the totally committed performance of the String Quartet No. 2. Very brief booklet notes are in English only.

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