Shostakovich's String Quartets

May 16, 2004 at 10:30 PM · What is the best recording in your opinion? I personally am impartial to my Borodin quartet recordings, and several of the St Petersburg Quartet recordings, and of course the Beethoven Quartet. I dislike the emersons complete Shostakovich quartets, though. Those old Russian quartets certainly have them beat in this music in my opinion (they may not nessecarily have the Emerson's technical prowess, but they have an emotional intensity that could only come from coachings on the quartets from Shostakovich himself.) Overall I have to say that Borodin's recordings have to be the most emotionally compelling...what do you guys think??

Replies (11)

May 16, 2004 at 10:34 PM · EMERSON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

May 16, 2004 at 11:13 PM · Well you should always have the old Borodin Quartet ones, obviously because Shostakovich worked with them on the quartets himself.

Otherwise I think the Emerson Quartet brings some really wonderful things to these works, especially a really sort of... Russian, frantic sense that we all know and love about Shosty.

May 17, 2004 at 01:17 AM · i second emerson, and borodin is excellent in its own right

May 17, 2004 at 02:04 AM · I don't think the Emerson is bad at the Shostakovich String quartets, I just think that in the hands of the Borodin they just have so much more depth. Even the overplayed eighth quartet sounded fresh to me when I first heard the recording of them playing it.

Plus, the box set of the Borodin is much much cheaper than the Emerson's (I think that the emerson's recording is what...80$? 100$?). I actually have the same mixed feelings of the Emerson's interpretation of the Bartok Quartets. But man, I love their recording of the Brahms/Mozart clarinet quintets, and their Borodin (2nd)/Dvorak (American)/Tchaikovsky(1st) quartets. And their recording of the Barber Adagio is the best I have heard.

December 10, 2004 at 05:03 PM · Ebay have the complete shos quartets played by the fitzwilliam quartet (chris rowland+co) for just £5.50 - is their recording a decent one? i was gonna go for the borodin (the definitive?) recording - £26 from amazon... but if their (f/william) recording is considered quite decent I might aswell save myself some money - I am a very poor student - advice please?? cheers, kathleen :-)

December 10, 2004 at 11:15 PM · Hey, I most certainly agree with you. My teaher is the former first violinist with Borodin, so I especially love his recordings with the group and of course they all knew Shostakovich from the Moscow Conservatory so, I feel that Borodin has an incredibly deep insight into the music. They're awesome recordings and everyone should buy them

December 10, 2004 at 11:48 PM · Hi Kathleen--The Fitzwilliam Quartet is the recording I have--each quartet has a really solid interpretation and i think their recordings are a great basis for getting to know the works--although i would recommend keeping listening to other recordings as well, because there is SO MUCH to the Shostakovich quartets that one interpretation can never do them complete justice.

December 11, 2004 at 12:26 AM · I second the Fitzwilliam quartet recommendation.


December 11, 2004 at 03:59 PM · Cheers guys! i think i'll get the fitzwilliam recording from ebay and put the borodin one on my wishlist for now......

December 17, 2004 at 08:58 AM · It has to be the Borodin. Howvever the Borodin quartet recorded the entire Shostakovich quartets twice.

The 1st time was with Dublinsky and the second with Kopelman. Has anyone heard the 1st set before and give some comparisions?

March 14, 2005 at 08:03 PM · I have the first Borodin set which has been re-issued on the Chandos label. At the time of original release on EMI lps it was complete through Quartet NO. 13, and that's as far as this set goes. However, I think it is a finer set of recordings than the later, complete BMG set, which is dry and harsh in comparison, but which also includes a recording of the Quintet with Sviatislav Richter. I had both sets, and still have the earlier set, which I supplement with a Praga disc of Quartets Nos. 14 & 15, with the Glinka and Beethoven Quartets, respectively.

Interpretively, I think both Borodin sets are close -- closer to each other than to their most recent recordings. But the recording conditions have a lot to do with what we finally hear or fail to hear; I am not a violinist, so I hesitate to judge. I did hear the Borodins live at Alice Tully Hall in NYC in performances of the last three quartets. Maxim Shostakovich was there for the concert, and I met him simply by walking up to him, offering my hand and introducing myself. I'm never that forward or nervy, but I wasn't about to let the moment pass!

I might add that I also have the Manhattan Quartet's set of the Shostakovich Quartets, and I enjoy it as much or more than the Fitzwilliam recordings. The Fitzwilliams did manage to play for Shostakovich himself, while the Manhattan group were able to gain advice from members of the Borodin Quartet, so both have rich connections to the very source of this music.

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