Emerson String Quartet

Shostakovich: Complete String Quartets

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If you like your Shostakovich quartets big, brawny, and a bit brutal, you'll like the Emerson Quartet's Shostakovich quartets. The Allegros are muscular, with sharp attacks, strong sforzandos, and relentless rhythms. The Passacaglias are powerful, with massive sonorities, monumental structures, and inexorable tempos. And the Allegrettos are aggressive, with ironic accents, sarcastic tones, and mordent tempos.

If you like your Shostakovich quartets smooth, suave, and very soulful, you'll probably like the Emerson Quartet's Shostakovich quartets. The Andantes are tuneful, with long lines, supple harmonies, and warm colors. The Adagios are soaring, with arching themes, aching harmonies, and brilliant colors. And the Largos are penetrating, with expressive counterpoint, weighty sonorities, and burnished colors.

If, however, you like your Shostakovich quartets straight, no ice, no chaser, you'll probably not like the Emerson Quartet's Shostakovich quartets. The Emerson seems unable to restrain itself and too often adds too much of itself to the scores. The rawness of the chords in the Fourth Quartet's opening movement? The Emerson's idea. The nostalgia of the tone in the Ninth Quartet's slow movement? The Emerson's notion. The sentimentality of the closing bars in the Fourteenth Quartet's finale? The Emerson's interpolation. For Shostakovich straight, try the Beethoven Quartet. It premiered almost all the quartets and learned their meaning from the composer. For Shostakovich plus, try the Emerson Quartet. DG's live sound is crisp, clean, deep, and detailed with the audience intruding only with energetic applause.

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