Shostakovich: String Quartets Nos. 1-15 - Complete (6CD)

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Fitzwilliam String Quartet

The Fitzwilliam Quartet is English by birth but shows a lot of Russian soul in these works, which were recorded in consultation with the composer. Their technique is flawless, their immersion in the music total, their interaction with one another and with the music spontaneous and intense. Priced competitively with the Borodin Quartet, they do not have any added attraction to match the Piano Quintet in that set, but this close-up stereo recording is significantly better. Highlights of the set include the relaxed, folk-flavored No. 1; the tense, autobiographical No. 8, which recalls the terrors of World War II, quotes a lot of Shostakovich's earlier works, and mourns for the "victims of fascism and war"; the contrasts of quiet beauty and fierce intensity in No. 10; and the bold structure of No. 15, Shostakovich's last quartet, in which he looks at death, steadily and without blinking.

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