Giordano Bruno | Wherever I am, I am. | 05/22/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Shostakovich's string quartets are as much the supreme masterworks of 20th Century music as Beethoven's were of the classical period. I hardly dare say more about them; they are profound on every level, and like Beethoven's, they grow more profound with every listening.
Shostakovich, in a sense, discovered the Fitzwilliam String Quartet when its members were undergrads at Cambridge. He entrusted the first western performances of his last three quartets to them for premiere, and they in turn made the first western recording of his full quartet cycle.
Many full cycles have been recorded since, and people have different favorites. I have three sets; this one by the Fitzwilliams is my own choice for the most insightful and incisive. But here's the important part of this review. Although $46.00 more or less is the standard price, I've just happened to notice that there are several sets available used for less than $10.00! Some used-CD dealer in Outer Slobbovia is gonna say a prayer on my behalf tonight!"
Excellent Performances! Excellent Sound Quality!
Frederick Baptist | Singapore | 04/22/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Although a great symphonist it is Shostakovich's original and personal quartets that have always impressed me the most about this Russian composing genius. Now we get all 15 in one compact and very well packaged set performed brilliantly by the Fitzwilliam String Quartet as well. The sound quality is also very, very good thanks to a brilliant sound engineering and production job; the acoustics at the All Saints Church in Surrey, England where this was recorded must be fantastic to produce such a great sound experience!
The Quartets here for those not already familiar with the composer's works can be an acquired taste for some as they bear little if any resemblence to the quartets one usually hears from composers like Beethoven and Schubert and can even sound extremely discordant at times reflecting the intended inner turmoil or moods the composer wants to portray. In fact, at some points the soundtrack/score to the Hitchcock movie "Psycho" comes to mind. Still, Shostakovich's work with his quartets is important in the new, unchartered waters he allowed this format to stretch out into reminding me a lot of how Ornette Coleman or even Thelonius Monk for example stretched the accepted jazz format at the time to discover new horizons at least in the expressiveness of the genre if not so much in making wholesale changes to the genre in itself.
For this reason, I never tire of listening to this set of quartets and you'd be hard pressed to find a better recording and collection than what you have here. Included in this very well put together cardboard box set is a 44-page booklet which contains the track listings together with an essay on all 15 quartets by Alan George in English, French and German. Each of the 6 discs are well-housed in well-designed cardboard square sleeves as well making this overall my favourite classical music box set of my entire collection.
Highly recommended for fans of "modern" classical music!"
Pure and true shostakovich
Walker | 12/03/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"While studying to perform the 8th Shostakovich quartet, I borrowed several recordings. On the basis of the reviews at this site I purchased the Fitzwilliam recording. In my opinion it is far and above superior to the others recordings available, with Kronos also worth a mention. Comparing this recording to some of the other popular suggestions found at this site, I was happy to find that the Fitzwilliam does not "edit" Shotsakovich's score-- no added dynamics or articulations. Tempo markings are true. Technically they are wonderful, the blend and voicing is exceptional. The interpretation is austere but remains powerful and hauntingly memorable because of it. Many recordings are credible, but this recording has me wanting to listen over and over. I think the Fitzwilliam is on a different plane from all the rest. Highly reccomended."
"Like Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and Bartok, Shostakovich decided to dare himself to compose truly, the most profound and intimate of all genres of chamber music. The string quartets constituted for the previous named composers a sort of intimate diary of profound reflection around and about their human condition, historical perspectives and personal statement. No other soviet composer achieved such level of dense expressive grandeur and like Bartok, Shostakovich found out in this genre the perfect device in order to convey to a selected audience who, far from the crowding applauses, the repeated ovations, noisy acknowledgments and the great energetic display of overpowering orchestral masses, could to get close still more to that narrow circle of sublime grandeur and opened heart expressiveness.
Perhaps it was a mere coincidence (I don't think so)to have composed exactly 15 Symphonies and 15 String quartets, but the certain of the case is that Shostakovich began to compose these chamber works since the times of the Eighth Symphony. Needless to affirm we have a musical genius in absolute domain of his powers.
Like Bartok, it's definitively useless to intend to understand the minimum facets of the soul of a man like him and his Hungarian colleague in case you do without these emblematic works.
In this particular set you will find out by far, the most extraordinary and musically idiomatic performances of his musical legacy. It would not be exaggerate that this renowned quartet will be reminded in the memory of the future by this priceless effort, and their most legitimate and coveted masterworks.
Don't think it twice and acquire these legendary musical treasures. "