ALERT: This week’s FREE Friday Noon Musicale at the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, features oboist Laura Medisky and pianist Vincent Fuh in sonatas by Paul Hindemith, Henri Dutilleux and Malcolm Arnold. The concert runs from 12:125 to 1 p.m. On Saturday night at 7 p.m., the same performers will repeat the same program in a FREE concert at Oakwood Village West auditorium, 6201 Mineral Point Road, on Madison’s far west side near West Towne.
By Jacob Stockinger
The Ear’s friends at the Willy Street Chamber Players (below), which The Ear named as Musicians of the Year for 2016, write:
We wanted to let you know about the upcoming kickoff of the Willy Street Chamber Players’ “Community Connect” series. We are committed to our mission of making classical music accessible to all.
The Willy Street Chamber Players’ Northside Community Connect Concert is on this coming Sunday, Feb. 19, at noon at the Warner Park Community Recreation Center.
Enjoy hot coffee, exciting classical music and great conversation with the Willy Street Chamber Players.
This program is FREE, family-friendly and will last about 60 minutes. All are welcome.
The program is: String Quartet in C Major, K. 157, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; String Quartet No. 5, “Rosa Parks” by Daniel Bernard Roumain; “Entr’acte” for String Quartet by Pulitzer Prize-winner Caroline Shaw (you can hear the piece, which The Ear loves for its pulsing and hypnotic rhythm plus unusual and interesting string textures, in the YouTube video at the bottom); and “Four, for Tango” by Astor Piazzolla.
There was an announcement about this series in the January string quartet program at A Place to Be (below, in a photo by John W. Barker), and it included a couple more concerts. But we have decided to make Community Connect a self-produced series.
We are planning a second Community Connect concert in July during our regular summer series, and have listed our other free appearances on our regular calendar.
The concert is made possible in part by Willy Street Co-Op and the North/Eastside Senior Coalition (NESCO).
For more information go to: www.willystreetchamberplayers.org
CORRECTION: In an early version of yesterday’s post, The Ear mistakenly said that performances by the Madison Opera of “Charlie Parker’s Yardbird” are on Saturday night at 8 as well as Sunday afternoon at 2:30. The first performance is FRIDAY NIGHT at 8 p.m. – NOT Saturday night. The Ear apologizes for the error.
Here are two links with more information about the opera and the production:
By Jacob Stockinger
This is a busy week with a wide diversity of music at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.
Here is a run-down by day:
At 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, UW hornist Daniel Grabois (below, in a photo by James Gill) will be joined by fellow UW-Madison professor pianist Christopher Taylor for a concert of brass music that is FREE and OPEN to the public.
The program features works by Franz Strauss (Empfindungen am Meere), Paul Hindemith (Alto Horn Sonata), Maurice Ravel (Horn Sonata, originally Violin Sonata) and Jean-Michel Damase (Sonata).
At 7:30 p.m. (NOT 7, as mistakenly first stated in yesterday’s post) in Morphy Recital Hall, saxophonist Daniel Schnyder will perform music by American jazz titan Charlie Parker with the Blue Note Ensemble and also participate in a Q&A session. The event is FREE and open to the public.
Schnyder is the composer of the opera “Charlie Parker’s Yardbird” that the Madison Opera will perform in the Capitol Theater of the Overture Center on Friday night at 8 p.m. and Sunday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. See the above correction for links to more information about the opera.
From 4:30 to 6 p.m. in Mills Hall, Venezuelan pianist Gabriela Montero will offer a FREE and PUBLIC master class. The Ear has no details about what will be featured.
Montero (below, in a photo by Shelley Mosman), who specializes in spontaneous improvisations but also performs standard repertoire, will perform at 8 p.m. on this Saturday night at the Wisconsin Union Theater. (In the YouTube video at the bottom, you can hear her live improvisations in Cologne, Germany on the aria theme of Johann Sebastian Bach‘s well-known “Goldberg” Variations.)
Here is a link with more information, including ticket prices, concert and recording reviews and audio-video clips, about her recital in Shannon Hall at the Wisconsin Union Theater:
And here is a link to more information about Montero, who also has won awards for her playing, improvisations and her Piano Concerto No. 1:
At 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall is the annual Symphony Showcase with the winners of the UW concerto competition and the world premiere of a student composition. The concert will be conducted by Professor James Smith and graduate student Kyle Knox.
Admission to the event costs $10 for adults; students and children get in for free. There is also a FREE post-concert reception at the nearby University Club.
For more information about the program (violin works by Ravel and Shostakovich, vocal works by Ravel and Gounod, a trumpet work by Oskar Boehme) and biographies of the five student performers (below) plus student composer (Nathan Froebe), go to:
By Jacob Stockinger
This week there are three FREE concerts at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music that merit your attention and attendance:
On Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, the UW-Madison Wind Ensemble (below top) will perform a concert of theater music under director Scott Teeple (below bottom).
The concert features special guest soloist, percussionist Darin Olson (below), assistant director of the University of Wisconsin Marching Band.
The program includes music from “The Three Penny Opera” by Kurt Weill; the wind octet “Figures in the Garden” by Jonathan Dove; the Concertino for Timpani with Brass and Percussion by Michael Colgrass; the “Nocturno” by Felix Mendelssohn; and the “Geschwindmarsch” (Wind March) by Paul Hindemith.
For more information, visit:
Famed pianist Leon Fleisher (below top) will perform a FREE noon concert with the Pro Arte Quartet (below bottom, in a photo by Rick Langer).
A single work is featured but it is a great one, an undisputed masterpiece: The Piano Quintet in F Minor by Johannes Brahms.
The concert is from noon to 1 p.m. in Mills Hall.
For more information and background, visit:
At 8 p.m. on Friday night in Mills Hall, the UW Symphony Orchestra (below) will perform under its director and conductor James Smith.
The ingenious program features two terrific fifth symphonies that are NOT the most famous Fifth Symphony, the one by Ludwig van Beethoven: these are instead the Symphony No. 5 in B-flat by Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev; and the Symphony No. 5 by Finnish composer Jean Sibelius.
You can listen to the exciting and moving finale of the Sibelius symphony, performed by the Finnish conductor Essa-Pekka Salonen and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra in the YouTube video at the bottom. It is one of The Ear’s favorites.)
Three student recitals, including graduate recitals in viola and piano, are also on the schedule this week. For information, visit:
By Jacob Stockinger
The Ear supposes that Leonard Bernstein’s Serenade for violin and orchestra qualifies as program music since it aims to translate Plato’s famous dialogue about love — “Symposium” — into music. (At the bottom, is a YouTube video of Joshua Bell performing the work with the New York Philharmonic under conductor Alan Gilbert in 2013.)
This much is sure. The 1954 work by Bernstein — to be performed by the Madison Symphony Orchestra concertmaster Naha Greenholtz (below) — is part of what makes this weekend’s one of the most interesting programs, maybe THE most interesting, of the season from the Madison Symphony Orchestra.
The combination of Romantic and post-WW II modern music includes the performance of a major symphony that is beloved around the world: the Ninth Symphony by Ludwig van Beethoven, also known as the “Choral” and Ode to Joy” symphony.
That was the symphony that Leonard Bernstein himself famously conducted in Germany to celebrate to fall of the Berlin Wall. So, what better offering is there to accompany it than something composed by Bernstein?
(John DeMain talked about the Beethoven symphony in a Q&A here earlier this week. Here is a link to that post: https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2015/05/04/classical-music-maestro-john-demain-talks-about-the-challenges-and-rewards-of-beethovens-ninth-the-choral-or-ode-to-joy-sympho/ )
Love and joy: Can there be a better way to finish out a season?
The program will be performed under the baton of longtime MSO music director John DeMain, who studied and worked with Leonard Bernstein. It will feature the Madison Symphony Chorus, as prepared by MSO assistant conductor Beverly Taylor, who heads the UW-Madison choral department.
Guest vocal soloists are: soprano Melody Moore; contralto Gwendolyn Brown; tenor Eric Barry; and bass Morris Robinson.
Tickets are $12-$84.
For details, go to https://www.madisonsymphony.org or call the Overture Center Box Office at (608) 258-4141.
For more information, including audio samples and a link to program notes by MSO bass trombonist and UW-Whitewater professor Michael Allsen, visit: http://www.madisonsymphony.org/beethoven
Concertmaster Naha Greenholtz (below) recently agreed to do an email Q&A about Leonard Bernstein’s “Serenade” with The Ear:
How would you compare Leonard Bernstein’s work to the great historical violin concertos by Bach, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Tchaikovsky and Sibelius? What about to modern and contemporary violin concertos by, say, Samuel Barber and Philip Glass, Sergei Prokofiev and Dmitri Shostakovich? Are there any you would draw parallels or contrasts to?
The five-movement format in Bernstein’s “Serenade” differentiates it substantially from some of the 18th and 19th century classics. While there’s no literal program, there is the suggestion of a basic narrative in Bernstein’s re-imagination of Plato’s communal dialogue. This element alone connects the work more closely to the late 19th and 20th century sub-genre of “program music.” (Below is a portrait of Leonard Bernstein composing at the piano in 1955, around the time of the “Serenade.”)
In its familiar tonal language — combing modal and traditional harmonic elements — it has some resemblance to the Barber concerto. I don’t think middle-of-the-century American composers like Aaron Copland, Samuel Barber and Leonard Bernstein were consciously adhering to style parameters.
That said, there is a distinctive “American-ness” to their works. Much the same way music by Dmitri Shostakovich and Sergei Prokofiev has a “Russian” sound, without necessarily being nationalistic. It’s subtler than that. It is more like these composers shared some common aesthetic DNA due to their national and cultural origins.
Where do you place it among Bernstein’s body of works? Is he generally underappreciated as a composer compared to his work as a conductor and his music for the Broadway theater?
To the latter question, this is certainly true. He was such a charismatic public figure in music, especially in his work as an educator, conductor and composer of popular music. In light of this, I think his remarkable contributions to “art” music are easily overlooked.
In the Serenade he manages to blend many stylistic elements. I hear the Devil’s Dance from Igor Stravinsky’s “Histoire du Soldat” and, in the fourth movement, glimpses of Gustav Mahler’s Ninth Symphony. The instrumentation is a nod to Bela Bartok in his “Music for Strings Percussion and Celeste” and the tonal language shows Paul Hindemith’s influence.
But despite all of that, Bernstein’s unique language is apparent within the first five seconds of the piece when the rising augmented 4th resolves up a half step. That’s what is so remarkable about Bernstein (below, in a photo by Jack Mitchell) — he manages to blend disparate elements of other great artists without losing his own intrinsic style.
How does Bernstein express the idea of Platonic dialogue?
Each of the movements is loosely based on the themes of the seven speakers in the work by Plato (below is an ancient sculptural depiction of the philosopher). The concerto begins with the soloist alone in a rhetorical statement and the piece unfolds as each orator presents his perspective on the topic of love. By the end of the fifth movement, drinking seems to have taken over the gathering, leading to a thrilling depiction of a boisterous dinner party.
How is the idea of love as a carnal and spiritual subject that the guests discuss get expressed?
On describing the duality of love, as a force that cuts both ways, Bernstein is explicit. For example in the third movement Erixymathus, he uses the soloist and orchestra as warring factions. The orchestra explodes with a three-note jab. Then the soloist introduces a quasi-tone row that’s passed back and forth with contrasting intensity. Further into the movement, he piles these themes on top of each other in a frenetic fugue that expresses the mystery and ecstasy of love.
In contrast, the next movement Agathon features the same three-note motive that opened the previous movement, but stretched to 10 times its initial length, utterly transforming it into a spiritual and intimate aria. Bernstein does this all over the piece, taking material from previous movements and showing them in a new light. (Below is a fresco depiction of the Symposium.)
What do you think of the work itself and how its fits with Beethoven’s Ninth? Have you played it before or is it new to you?
Until last year I’d only known the Serenade by recording, so I was thrilled when John suggested we perform it here with the MSO.
It’s strangely neglected in the solo violin repertoire. Maybe that is because of the unconventional five-movement format, or that the title “after Plato’s Symposium” is somehow intimidating or off-putting.
It’s clearly one of Bernstein’s great orchestral works and is a firework of a showpiece for the violin. As far as pairing with Beethoven’s Ninth, the themes of brotherhood and platonic love feature prominently in both works.
How challenging is it to play and what are the challenges both technically and interpretively? What would you like the audience to pay special attention to?
I find all music challenging. Mozart is simpler in terms of notes and patterns than, say, Shostakovich or Bernstein, but in its own way it is just as hard to play and requires just as much diligent work to pull off.
The Bernstein is full of musical challenges and requires lots of imagination and characterization to communicate the narrative of Plato’s dialogue.
That being said, it’s a major 20th-century solo work so it’s also chock full of technical hurdles. Isaac Stern (below, in 1977) – for whom this piece was written — has left us fingering and bowing suggestions, so I know the thorny passages are at least theoretically possible!
In any event, I’m really looking forward to these performances and think these will be fantastic concerts for anyone who loves great music.
ALERT: This week’s FREE Friday Noon Musicale, to be held from 12:15 to 1 p.m. in the Landmark Auditorium of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Meeting House of the First Unitarian Society of Madison, features guitarists Jaime Guiscafre (below) and Christopher Murray in music by Johann Sebastian Bach, Moreno, Paul Hindemith, Fernando Sor, Toru Takemitsu and Heitor Villa-Lobos.
By Jacob Stockinger
The Ear has received the following word from Music con Brio, a local group that specializes in music education:
You are cordially invited to a concert featuring Music con Brio (below top) and the acclaimed Madison-based percussion ensemble Clocks in Motion this Thursday, April 23, at 6 p.m. in Music Hall (below bottom) 925 Bascom Mall, Madison WI 53606 — NOT the Humanities building) on the UW-Madison campus at the foot of Bascom Hill.
We are proud to present the world premiere of “Illusions” by Madison composer Brad Fowler, which was commissioned specifically for this concert.
The concert is FREE and UNTICKETED.
However, parking on the UW-Madison campus can be a challenge. The UW-Madison website offers the following information: “The closest public parking to Music Hall is the Helen C. White Parking Garage at the end of Park Street. You may also want to check the Memorial Union Lot or the Lake Street Ramp. Please plan accordingly as parking can be challenging in this area. There is no free parking anywhere close to Music Hall as all of the lots surrounding the building are controlled 24/7. You can follow this link to check out the real-time parking availability in the Helen C White Garage.” http://transportation.wisc.edu/parking/lotinfo_occupancy.aspx
For more information about the various groups here are links:
For Music con Brio (below):
For Clocks in Motion (below):
For Sound Cloud samples of works by Brad Fowler (below):
By Jacob Stockinger
In 1842, five years before his death at 38, the early Romantic composer Felix Mendelssohn (below, in an etching from the Hulton Archive/Getty Images), who lived from 1809 to 1847 and is known for his charming and accessible works, wrote a short song of just 29 measures for a friend in Berlin.
Twice the unpublished song manuscript changed hands, being auctioned off in 1862 and 1872.
And then it went missing for a long time.
Until it mysteriously resurfaced in the U.S. this year.
The title is suggestive and intriguing. The song is called “The Heart is Like a Mine” and takes it text from a poem by Friedrich Rückert (below, 1788-1866), a master of 30 languages whose own prolific poetry was used by other major composers including Franz Schubert, Robert Schumann, Clara Schumann, Johannes Brahms, Bela Bartok, Paul Hindemith, Richard Strauss, Hugo Wolf and Gustav Mahler.
Sounds as if the song could be pretty bleak and dire, if you are thinking coal mine.
Or bright and hopeful, if you are thinking about a diamond or gold mine.
You can decide for yourself.
After the manuscript of the song resurfaced, the BBC had it recorded by a singer and a pianist, who do a fine job with it.
You can use the link below to the feature on NPR and its outstanding classical music blog — “Deceptive Cadence” — to listen to the song, plus get the background about its history and its upcoming auction at Christie’s. And you can find the recording of the lovely 1-1/2 minute song at the bottom in YouTube video.)
The Ear hopes the autographed manuscript ends up in a public museum and not again in a private collection, which is how it went missing for so long. But we will soon see.
By Jacob Stockinger
Here is a review by guest blogger Sigurd “Sig” Midelfort, a good friend of the blog and of classical music in the Madison area.
Sig is a retired CPA who has spent a number of years with non-profits. He adds: “Right now, that means I’m doing and have done volunteer work — with the Democratic Party of Dane County, Madison Music Makers Inc, a local environmental group and an orchestra in the western suburbs of Chicago. (I also was a history major as an undergrad, have a masters in economic development, was in the Peace Corps in Tanzania for three years, and so on.) All the time I have been interested in the local classical music scene, playing in amateur groups for decades.”
It proved too good to resist. Enjoy!
By Sigurd Midelfort
Two recent University of Wisconsin-Madison doctoral graduates participated in a lustrous viola recital on February 19 at Carnegie Hall (below) in New York City.
Violist Elias Goldstein, now a professor at Louisiana State University who received his DMA from the UW-Madison in 2011 performed and received assistance on the violin from Roxana Pavel Goldstein, his wife (she received her DMA from the UW-Madison in 2012) and from Ieva Jokubaviciute, a Lithuanian pianist. (They are below, in a photo by Daniel Balan.)
Elias began the evening, playing an unaccompanied sonata for viola, Op. 25, No. 1, by Paul Hindemith. Roxana (below) joined him in two duos for violin and viola: one, a three-movement duet in G Major, K. 423, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and the other, a “Passacaglia” by George Frideric Handel as arranged by the 19th-century Norwegian composer and conductor Johan Halvorsen.
After intermission, Elias and Ieva performed three works for viola and piano: a divertimento in three movements by Franz Joseph Haydn, as arranged by the famous cellist Gregor Piatigorsky and the famous violist William Primrose (below); a sonata (No. 6 in A major) in two movements by Luigi Boccherini, as arranged by Primrose; and the famous Caprice No. 24 by the legendary Nicolo Paganini –- it has been used for theme and variations by Franz Liszt, Johannes Brahms, Sergei Rachmaninoff and Witold Lutoslawski — also as transcribed for viola by Primrose. (The caprice, taken at a quasi presto tempo, is hard enough for violin, its original instrument. For viola? Well, one can imagine the difficulties it presented.)
I was not an unbiased observer. Elias is a distant relative, and I have been a passionate amateur cellist my entire life. Nonetheless, Elias’ tone was stunning. His playing was mellow and warm, round and resonant, displaying an ease and mastery of technique that is unusual for even the most accomplished performers.
Elias holds recent top prizes in the following international viola competitions: the Primrose, the Yuri Bashmet, the Lionel Tertis, the Watson Forbes and the Andrews University String Competition. In 2011, he made his Russian debut with the Moscow Soloists and the New Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra under Alexander Sladkovsky.
While at the UW-Madison School of Music, Elias was a student of Sally Chisholm of the Pro Arte Quartet.
Although the viola (below) generally has a lower public profile, in the hands of such an artist as Elias it stands as an equal of, or is even superior to, the violin or cello in terms of its quality of sound.
Roxana, too, is a superb artist, playing with considerable warmth and sensitivity on the violin. Originally from Romania, she worked at the UW-Madison with David Perry, first violinist of the Pro Arte Quartet, doing research on Romanian tunes and folk music as expressed on the violin.
By Jacob Stockinger
The Ear’s friends at the Madison Symphony Orchestra have sent in the following announcement:
“Can you name all the different distinctly American choral traditions?
“Director Beverly Taylor (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot) and the Madison Symphony Chorus will answer that question this Sunday afternoon, Feb. 2, at 2 p.m., when they’ll appear in “Apple Pie America: A Slice of Choral Americana” in Promenade Hall at the Overture Center for the Arts. (Taylor is also the head of the choral department at the university of Wisconsin-Madison, where she directs the UW Choral Union and UW Concert Choir, and is the assistant conductor of the Madison Symphony Orchestra. And sorry, I have so specific titles of works on the program but I have been told that the concert is closing in on being sold-out, with only a few tickets remaining.)
Many of the works will be accompanied by Madison Symphony Orchestra principal pianist Daniel Lyons (below).
Tickets are $15, and are available at http://madisonsymphony.org/Americana or at the Overture Center Box Office at (608) 258-4141 or 201 State Street.
Formed in 1927, the Madison Symphony Chorus (below, in a photo by Greg Anderson) gave its first public performance in 1928 and has performed regularly with the Madison Symphony Orchestra ever since.
It was featured at the popular Madison Symphony Christmas concerts in December, and it will be joined by four soloists for the MSO’s performance of Mozart’s Requiem on April 4, 5 and 6.
The Chorus is comprised of more than 125 volunteer musicians from all walks of life who enjoy combining their artistic talent, and new members are always welcome. Visit http://madisonsymphony.org/chorus for more information.
CATCHING UP WITH THE GRAMMY WINNERS
Last Sunday was the Grammy Awards.
Here is a complete list of the nominees and the winners. It makes for a good listening list or buying list.
WINNER Roomful Of Teeth
78. BEST CLASSICAL VOCAL SOLO
80. BEST CONTEMPORARY CLASSICAL COMPOSITION
By Jacob Stockinger
There are so many reasons to like the third 2-CD installment of a projected four volumes of “The Soviet Experience,” (below) performed by the Pacifica String Quartet and recorded by the non-profit Cedille Records that is based in Chicago and specializes in regional artists.
I suppose one has to start with the music and the performances.
Suffice it to say that I have never heard the string quartets of Dmitri Shostakovich (below) performed with such appeal and subtlety as by this group. These performances grab and hold your attention as much as the music does. (See the YouTube video at bottom with a member of the Pacifica explaining the appeal of Shostakovich.)
Yes, I much admire and often listen to the Grammy-winning set by the Emerson String Quartet. And I also like the softer readings by the St. Petersburg Quartet. But there is something special about these performances from the Pacifica Quartet (below).
For one, I find the Pacifica projects a lot of subtlety, flexibility and nuances, and also emphasizes a certain a traditional Russian sound or musicality that extended right into Soviet music.
That is, the Pacifica Quartet – the members are now artists-in-residence at the famed Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University — has been acclaimed for its compete Mendelssohn quartet cycle and for a terrific turn-of-the century recital (“Declarations,” below) of music by Leos Janacek, Ruth Crawford Seeger and Paul Hindemith.
Most of that music is much less dark than Shostakovich’s. But the members of the Pacifica Quartet can be as modern, spiky and aggressive as Shostakovich’s music demands; yet the quartet also knows when to interject a contrasting lyricism that can be traced back to Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff.
I am especially partial to this latest release. The third volume has my favorite Shostakovich quartet – No. 14 in F-sharp-minor – that is short and with seven uninterrupted movements and a cyclic structure you can easily discern.
Some listeners might prefer the first volume (below) because it has the most famous of the 16 Shostakovich quartets — No. 8 in C minor dedicated to victims of fascism, by which the composer meant both Nazi and Soviet cruelty and terror.
Others might prefer volume No. 2 (below) that includes some of the first big and mature quartets.
I say get all three and also the fourth, which is supposed to be released this October and will complete the Shostakovich cycle with Quartets 13, 14 and 15 plus Alfred Schnittke’s String Quartet No. 3.
But here are other reasons to like this 2-CD recording.
The packaging, art and liner notes by David Fanning are all first-rate. The timings are generally very generous.
The engineering is superb, with a sonic presence that makes it sound like the quartet is playing right in front of you. There is no reverb or resonance allowed for since your own livingroom or car interior IS the playback venue.
In fact, I am particularly fond of the engineering because the freelancer producer and engineer is Judith Sherman. She is a legend in the business for winning several Grammy awards.
Plus, Sherman (below) is the engineer for the four commissions by the University of Wiscosin-Madison’s Pro Arte Quartet for its centennial two seasons. They includes quartets by Walter Mays and John Harbison, and piano quintets by Paul Schoenfield and William Bolcom.
The Pro Arte Quartet’s 2-CD centennial commission set will be released on Albany Records this fall. And Sherman has told The Ear that the Pro Arte Quartet (below, in a recording session for Sherman, who si adjusting microphones in Mills Hall) at the UW-Madison is the equal of any she has recorded and could well be nominated for a Grammy since the Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences favors new contemporary works, small labels and unknown performers – all of which apply to the Pro Arte commissions.
But back to the Pacifica’s Soviet CD.
It is worth recalling that Shostakovich’s 15 string quartets served roughly the same purpose at Beethoven’s cycle of 16: a workshop or laboratory to work out ideas and confide private thoughts and techniques that might be too revolutionary or unsuitable for other genres and bigger public consumption.
But I like that more than being a survey of just the Shostakovich quartets, each volume includes a quartet by as contemporary composer of Shostakovich –- Sergei Prokofiev, Nikolai Myaskovsky and Mieczslaw Weinberg. That program format helps to put a frame around the picture and show what makes Shostakovich so distinctive and original in his time and also gives a sense of that terrible time so that you can also hear what similarities he shares with his contemporaries.
To be fair, The Ear is not alone in his praise for this recording.
The BBC Music Magazine singled out the CD for a Recording of the Month award.
Here is a link:
And the Telegraph newspaper of London also raved about it. Here is a link to that review, reproduced in a newsletter from Indiana University:
When that many discerning a critics agree, you can be pretty sure that this is a recording that is a must-have and must-hear.