Shostakovich: String Quartets Nos 4, 6 & 8

Shostakovich: String Quartets Nos 4, 6 & 8

St Petersburg String Quartet


After the St Petersburg Quartet's 'dazzling debut' on Hyperion with String Quartets 2 and 3 (CDA67153), this CD brings three further compelling recordings of the Shostakovich Quartets.

Quartet No 4 was written at a time when leading Soviet composers were having their music publicly denigrated for failing to appeal to 'the people'. Despite this condemnation, Shostakovich persevered with his composing and just delayed the premier until four years later. Whatever Shostakovich feared to express publicly at this time (1949), by 1956, the year of his Sixth Quartet, the political and cultural climate had improved. The works Shostakovich released following Stalin's death—the Fourth and Fifth Quartets, Violin Concerto, Tenth Symphony and Festive Overture—had altered the international perception of his art considerably.

1956 was the year of Shostakovich's fiftieth birthday, and the Sixth Quartet was written for a commemorative concert by the Beethoven Quartet. The event was, naturally, to be a pleasant one, and the music reflects, at least on the surface, the happiness as may be felt on such an occasion. Beneath the surface, however, we discern one of this composer's greatest and most original masterpieces.

In July 1960, Shostakovich was in Dresden, in the then German Democratic Republic, writing the music for a film, Five Days, Five Nights. This was the first time Shostakovich had seen the remains of the city's bombardment, and the experience directly inspired his Eighth String Quartet, Op 110, which was written in just three days, July 12 to 14.

All of the music on this album is also available as part of the specially priced box set Shostakovich: The Complete String Quartets: ‘These players approach Shostakovich's mighty cycle with a natural authority that's unanswerable, along with tireless precision and virtuosity, plus a wonderful command of the music's way of switching between sunlight and shadow when you least expect it’ (Classic FM Magazine).

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