Dmitry Shostakovich: String Quartets Nos. 2, 7, 8

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Recording of the Week
Presto Classical (2019)
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Europadisc (2019)
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Recording of the Year
Classic Prague Award (2020)

Audio samples

Dmitry Shostakovich: String Quartet No. 2 A major, Op. 68

01. Ouverture. Moderato con moto
02. Recitative and Romance. Adagio
03. Waltz. Allegro
04. Theme with Variations. Adagio - Moderato con moto

Dmitry Shostakovich: String Quartet No. 7 F Sharp minor, Op. 108

01. Allegretto
02. Lento
03. Allegro - Allegretto

Dmitry Shostakovich: String Quartet No. 8 C minor, Op. 110

01. Largo
02. Allegro molto
03. Allegretto
04. Largo
05. Largo

Album information

SU4271-2, release date 25. 10. 2019

What we have here is one of the bleakest and most beautiful recordings of the year, with all three quartets (particularly the much-recorded No. 8) approached with an immediacy that would make you swear that the ink was barely dry on the page.

PRESTO CLASSICAL, NOVEMBER 2019

Shostakovich – his music is a challenge each and every quartet sooner or later has to face up to. Yet when it comes to the Pavel Haas Quartet, it seems to be in their very DNA. The ensemble’s unbridled, impulsive and, now and then, frenetic energy, sense for extreme contrast, ability to bring to bear gradation from breath-taking subtlety and tenderness to symphonic drama are facets essentially incident to Shostakovich’s music. Although composed in safety, away from the horrors of World War II, String Quartet No. 2 (1944) reflects the suffering, uncertainty and anxiety of living at the time (the lyrical Recitative of the second movement, as performed by Veronika Jarůšková, the first violin). Both dating from 1960, String Quartets Nos. 7 and 8 are truly intimate confessions. While Shostakovich dedicated the former (the shortest piece of the cycle) to the memory of his first wife, he most likely intended the latter as his own epitaph, at the time when be hovered on the thin line between life and death. Attesting to the autobiographical nature of String Quartet No. 8 is the opening DSCH motif, Shostakovich’s musical signature, which reoccurs throughout the piece. The Pavel Haas Quartet surpass the abyss of time, as well as the barrier of personal physical existence, delving into the very centre of Shostakovich’s music and reflecting the full scale of emotions with airiness, as if the music were their own.

The PHQ’s formidable combination of almost orchestral depth of tone with mercurial, chamber-music responsiveness lies at the heart of their success in the C minor Eighth Quartet. This is a performance of real weight and incisiveness which nevertheless finds plenty of room for the intensely personal nature of the music.

EUROPADISC, OCTOBER 2019

The wonderful Pavel Haas Quartet perform three of Shostakovich’s here: the wartime No 2, a powerfully reflective response to the suffering and anxiety of the time, rigorously and sweepingly argued; the short No 7, written in memory of his first wife, its mix of sweet memories, turbulence and soulful lamentation affectionately captured; and the harrowing No 8, a paean to tragedy and anger, presented here as a crunching finale to this engrossing disc.

THE SCOTSMAN, OCTOBER 2019

Its interpretation of the first and third movements are notable. In the former, the performers show the vibrant multi-dimensionality of emotions, ranging from the robust A-major opening to the menacing nature of the middle section. With so many character changes, a significant challenge for any group is to keep the energy flowing throughout. The ensemble does this impressively.

THE CLASSIC REVIEW, NOVEMBER 2019

It’s absolutely gut wrenchingly intense. It’s almost unlistenable too, it’s so fabulous, it’s such committed playing, it’s such deep, deep sincerity.

BBC RADIO 3 RECORD REVIEW, NOVEMBER 2019

The Czech players are always worth hearing, especially in their angst-ridden account of the biographical C minor quartet (No 8), but also in the forlorn, if fleeting, F sharp minor (No 7), written in memory of his first wife. Their account of the Second Quartet, in A major, is spacious, intense and symphonically conceived.

THE SUNDAY TIMES, NOVEMBER 2019

Le jeu des quatre amis tchèques est admirable de suggestion, il a vraiment l’élégance du désespoir, quelque chose de sinistre mais en habit de gala.

ARTALLINA, NOVEMBER 2019

It's their lightness of touch that commands; the subtle nuances of colour, line and texture performed with almost spectral intensity.

BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE, CHRISTMAS ISSUE 2019

Das Pavel Haas Quartet schafft es, indem es einfach nur die Musik „erzählen“ lässt. Dabei dringen die Musiker aber selbst in die dunkelsten Ecken der ebenfalls aufgenommenen Streichquartette Nr. 2 und 7 mit einer Variabilität in der Tongebung und einem intensiven, aber eben genau ausbalancierten Melos ein, das schon lange zu den absoluten Stärken dieses Ausnahmequartetts gehört… Eine Weltklasseinspielung.

RONDO, DECEMBER 2019

What really grips me about these performances is the ensemble's ability to get under the skin of the music and their compellingly imaginative concept of texture, instrumental balance and nuance.

BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE, JANUARY 2020

Du celèbre 8e, les Pavel Haas font bien resortir l'essence conflictuelle. Ils ne visent pas uniquement la force d'impact mais, par leur jeu fois creusé et chaudement coloré, tirent l'œvre, d'une façon aussi partiale que captivante, vers son aspect le plus moderne.

DIAPASON, JANUARY 2020

Další alba

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Antonín Dvořák: Piano Quintet No. 2, Op. 81 & String Quintet Op. 97

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Bedřich Smetana: String Quartet No. 1 in E minor "From My Life" & String Quartet No. 2 in D minor

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Franz Schubert: String Quartet No. 14 in D minor „Death and the Maiden“ & String Quintet in C major

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Antonín Dvořák: String Quartet in G major, Op. 106 & String Quartet in F major, Op. 96 "American"

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Sergei Prokofiev: String Quartets Nos 1 & 2, Sonata for Two Violins

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Leoš Janáček: String Quartet No. 1 "Kreutzer Sonata" & Pavel Haas: String Quartets Nos 1 & 3

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Leoš Janáček: String Quartet No. 2 "Intimate Letters" & Pavel Haas: String Quartet No. 2 "From the Monkey Mountains"

Complete discography