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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Pacifica Quartet, The Soviet Experience, Vol III: String Quartets by Shostakovich and His Contemporaries

When a particular performance group cherishes clearly the music it plays, and they put their considerable talents toward making the music come alive, we most likely are the considerably richer for it. That is surely true of the Pacifica Quartet and their passion for the String Quartets of Dimitri Shostakovich.

The third volume of their expansive treatment of Shostakovich and selected contemporaries, The Soviet Experience (Cedille 9000 138) is out, and it continues the high levels of idiomatic brilliance of the previous volumes.

For the third volume Pacifica takes on Shostakovich's quartets 9-12, consummate modern masterpieces all, plus the 6th quartet of Mieczyslaw Weinberg, who is no stranger to these pages and fits in quite well with these later Shostakovich opuses. The volume fills two disks.

These are masterpieces, played with passion, precision and a special knack for bringing out thematic highlights while still maintaining the contrapuntal complexities that make these works so attractive and vigorously bracing.

I will not give a blow-by-blow description; you can find that in the liner notes. What I will say is that the Pacifica Quartet has done something seminal on this set. You would have to look very hard for a quartet that comes close to their mastery and excitement-generating enthusiasm for the music at hand. I believe there is one volume remaining? I will anticipate myself by asserting in advance that this will be the set of Shostakovich quartets to have. With the highly valuable addition of related Russian composers' work in the idiom, it takes the brass ring.

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