The original Borodin Quartet was founded in 1945 in the Soviet Union and this release marks the Quartet’s 70th anniversary. They enjoyed a close relationship with Shostakovich, and often worked with him as a new quartet was written (and they also recorded the cycle).
The Quatuor Parisii was founded in 1981 by four Paris Conservatoire students, who played Milhaud's String Quartet No 4 in 1984 and promised Milhaud's widow Madeleine then that they would record all eighteen. They went on to win many prestigious competitions, remained together and completed this project last year. The performances are as good as you could reasonably expect (a few moments show a little strain) and are well recorded…..
Gloria Coates (b. 1938) writes gloriously expressive music that's also sometimes disorienting. That's meant as a compliment. She has fashioned a mesmerizing and unique language from hovering harmonic clouds and her signature gesture -- the glissando (sliding pitches). And in a work like the String Quartet No. 7 for strings and organ, the long downward glides mix with brazen and spooky organ chords and Charles Ives-like hymn quotes to create an alluring aural vertigo.
Brett Dean is not shy about revealing what his music is ‘about’. Whether inspired by certain individuals (as in Epitaphs), or by an ecological or human disaster (as in his String Quartet No. 1, on the now all too topical plight of refugees), Dean’s works are usually – perhaps invariably – driven by extra-musical narratives. Rather than tease out any innate structural puzzles or tensions, his music typically falls into short little dramatic narratives – no movement on this disc lasts as long as eight minutes, many of them rather less than five. The most obviously successful work here is Quartet No. 2, ‘And once I played Ophelia’, effectively a dramatic scena. Its soprano soloist is no mere extra voice (as in Schoenberg’s Second Quartet) but the leading protagonist. Allison Bell’s genuinely affecting performance is backed by the Doric Quartet’s expressionist scampering and sustained harmonies, the strings occasionally coming to the fore in the manner of a Schumann-style song postlude.
"A triumphant start to what heralds to be one of the best Shostakovich quartet cycles imaginable. (…) Highly recommended." 5/5 ~sa-cd.net
Vissarion Yakovlevich Shebalin (1902-1963) had written nine string quartets as well as a string trio (among the composer's most popular works). As in the case of, say, Myaskovsky (his professor of composition at the Moscow Conservatory), Kabalevsky, Shostakovich, and even Vainberg, chamber music became among Shebalin's chief oeuvres. His well-assured, well crated First Quartet (1924), like that of Kabalevsky's (1928), shows signs of Myaskovsky's influence in its melancholic …….Recommended, with every ounce of enthusiasm.David Anthony Hollingsworth @ Amazon.com
The highly personal style of American composer Benjamin Lees lends his music the lofty grandeur and sardonic wit, not only of Shostakovich but also of the Cubist and Surrealist artists, all of whom he so admires. Lees, who also shares Britten’s refined sense of harmony, delights in contrasts and surprises, enthralling the listener at every turn from the lyrical to the burlesque, the romantic to the brusque. His fifth string quartet was chosen by Chamber Music America as one of its 101 Great Ensemble Works.