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INDELIBLE VISIONS
OF A TROUBLED WORLD

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BILL NEWMAN discusses the Emersons' new recording
of the complete Shostakovich works for string quartet

 

<< Continued from yesterday

In Quartet No.4 (1949), the composer proclaims himself an opponent of anti-semitism. 'My peers thought the Jews were getting preferential treatment. They didn't remember the pogroms, the ghettos, or the quotas..it was almost a mark of sangfroid to speak of Jews with a mocking laugh...it was always a bad time for them. ..that's when I wrote the Violin Concerto, the Jewish Cycle, and the Fourth Quartet.' It marked a new departure in its coursing melodies, richly harmonised over four movements [listen, CD 2 track 1, 0:30 - 1:27]. Quartet No.5 (1951) is a cycle of three movements that follow one another without pause. Emotional intensity, profound ideas and forceful drama interlink the wealth of imagery and violent conflicts on a grand scale [listen, CD 2 track 7, 1:07 - 1:52].

In contrast, Quartet No.6 (1956) depicts the pure, carefree world of childhood, dynamically treated during the first movement's recapitulation with fresh harmonies at the close. The second movement is a rondo, the third a passacaglia with variations over a ground bass (cello predominant), with a bridge passage to the finale in the form of a rondo-sonata fusing a waltz-like first theme leading to a grotesque second in duple time to give unity to the whole [listen, CD 2 track 11, 3:27 - 4:21]. Again, the Beethoven Quartet premiered it at Leningrad. Quartet No.7 (1960), in memory of his first wife Nina Varzar is just over 11 minutes long, also three movements played without a pause. It intermixes grotesquerie with irony in the opening movement, recalls the depth and mystery of the cell scene in Mussorgsky's 'Boris Godunov' in the second [listen, CD 3 track 2, 1:17 - 2:51], and closes with a calm finale that pictures ghostly shadows in the form of mirages - a waltz, a fugue and a new version of the first movement's main subject, plus a coda that literally peters out.

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Copyright © 28 May 2000 Bill Newman, Edgware, UK

 

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CD INFORMATION - DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON   463 284-2

 

BILL NEWMAN IN CONVERSATION WITH THE EMERSON QUARTET

 

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