Volume III of Shebalin's Quartets- very praiseworthy project
David A. Hollingsworth | Washington, DC USA | 05/27/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"With volume III of Shebalin's String Quartets recently issued by Olympia Compact Disc Ltd., we now have a fuller, though still incomplete glimpse of Shebalin's wider range of his musical talents. What are missing is his much talked about Trio for violin, cello, & piano, his wonderful opera "The Taming of the Shrew", and a whole host of his other works (over fifty yet to be recorded and/or re-issued).The Quartets of Shebalin are consistent in their assured craftmanship, musical depth, and their euphonious sense of individuality and independence, even under the heavy, sometimes unbearable weight of Socialist Realism. Musical integrity was of highest importance to Shebalin and he did everything in his powers not to sacifice it (the habit he learned from Myaskovsky & Shostakovich). Shebalin paid a heavy price for his stance, however: he was among the artists attacked by Andrei Zhdanov in 1948 at the infamous though disgraceful Conference of Soviet Musicians, and was relieved of his duties as Director of the Moscow Conservatory (the post he held since 1942). In many ways, both the Sixth and the Seventh Quartets (1943 & 1948 respectively) take over where the Fifth Quartet "Slavonic" left off. Pervasively, the atmosphere behind the works is unmistakably Russian, though the use of folkmusic is not as pronounce in comparison to the Fifth. This is especially true in Sixth Quartet's quasi-festive third movement (vivo) and even in the finale (listen to the first three minutes of it & think of his Sinfonietta on Russian Themes written five years later). There's plenty of introspection in the andante movement of both quartets, with the mood somewhat sentimental, elegiac (and also in the Seventh, passionate & sonorous by the middle section). The scherzo second movement of the Seventh is more dance-like than the vivo movement of the Sixth, with the pizzicato adding to festivity that is earthbound and rustic. Shebalin's Eighth Quartet (1960) shares a number of common traits with the Ninth written a year later: the russian accent is not as profound as the previous three and the overall mood especially in the andante and adagio movements is soulful & intropective in a Myaskovskian sense. But, there's a shadow of Shostakovich noticeable in this Quartet as well, especially in allegro second movement, with the marchlike beginning having something of a reminiscene with Shostakovich's Sixth Symphony (allegro movement). The finale is more personal, however, with its character majestic and robust and the ending a curious mixture of contemplation and a farewell (like that of the finale of Shebalin's Fifth Symphony of 1962 incidentally).The Krasni Quartet performed admirably in this three volume series of Shebalin's String Quartets & nothing but upmost gratitude & praiseworthiness are due to this promising ensemble. It seems to me that this Quartet will be around and talked about for quite a while (and beyond). Their debut with the first volume was a huge success and the next two volumes gloriously confirm what this ensemble is capable of. I personally would like the Krasni Quartet is go on concert tours especially in North America & hope that it will embark on the quartets of Lyatoshynsky, Gliere, Knipper, and Mosolov in the near future.Well done!!!"