The Pacifica’s Powerful Shostakovich and Weinberg Quartets

Review by: David Hurwitz


Artistic Quality: 10

Sound Quality: 10

This is the third volume in Cedille’s ongoing series of Shostakovich quartets, enriched by additional works by the composer’s Soviet colleagues, and like the two previous releases it is a triumph. Mieczyslaw Weinberg’s Sixth quartet was composed in 1946 and promptly blacklisted by the Soviet authorities. It’s a big work (32 minutes) in six well-contrasted movements, centering around a very beautiful Adagio. Its kinship with Shostakovich is clear, although it should be kept in mind that at this time Shostakovich’s own quartet cycle was in its initial stages.

As with the previous volumes, the Pacifica Quartet’s performances are as good as any. From the limpid purity of the Ninth quartet’s opening Moderato con moto, to the snarling Tenth quartet’s Allegretto furioso (mean but never crude), this is great quartet playing. The Eleventh quartet’s seven brief movements flow into one another with impressive cogency and point, while in the Twelfth quartet, a work that flirts with atonality despite being nominally in D-flat major, the Pacifica never loses its sense of direction and feeling for the musical line (especially critical in the long concluding Allegretto).

Also in keeping with previous releases, the sonics are marvelously lifelike, well-balanced, and warm. It’s funny how, with all of the fuss and bother about SACD, surround-sound, and whatnot, enterprising small labels like Cedille still make recordings in good, old-fashioned stereo that wipe the floor with outfits that expect new formats to supply a quality that ultimately remains the exclusive province of a top-notch engineer with a great pair of ears.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: None for this coupling

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