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Classical Music Review

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String Quartets 7, 8 & 9


Composer: Dmitri Shostakovich
Performed by: Altius Quartet
Label: Navona Records
RRP: £13.99
Release Date: 13 October 2017

Shostakovich: String Quartets 7, 8 & 9 sees Altius Quartet following their previous release, Dress Code, with a drastically different repertoire. Whereas Dress Code was a gentle introduction to classical music for those that normally shy away from it (although it still works as a great album for those that love Classical music), Shostakovich acts as an introduction to Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich's work. These pieces here were originally composed between 1960-64.

Each piece was written in memory of someone close to Shostakovich or people whose cause was close to his heart. His Seventh Quartet was written in memory of his first wife, who had died suddenly from complications during an emergency surgery. It's an emotionally charged piece and one which Altius handle both delicately and respectfully.

After reluctantly joining the Communist Party and in the midst of his first instance of debilitating muscle fatigue, Shostakovich dedicated the Eighth Quartet “to the victims of fascism and the war.” Whether this is a reference to the atrocities he experienced during World War II or an expression of his closeted dissent of his country’s regime, the brooding largo and visceral allegretto demonstrate that this quartet could be dedicated to victims anywhere.

Finally, the Ninth Quartet was written in dedication to his third wife and it’s clear this work is written with a much more hopeful tone than his other pieces. For instance, this quartet doesn’t end with a morendo like so many of his other works; in fact, the quartet ends with a luminous forte.

Once again, as with the previous release, it's the quartet's passion that comes to the fore. On more than a couple of occasions the playing is full of such emotion, that I could almost hear the artists sobbing as they tease the feelings out of their instruments. The playing on both 'Op. 110 - IV. Largo' and 'Op. 117 - II. Adagio' is particularly heartbreaking.

The album contains 13 tracks (58 min, 49 sec). You can't call yourself a true collector of beautiful Classical albums until you add this to your music library. "Beautiful" doesn't even come close to describing both the original source material and Altius's masterful playing.

Track listing:

Dmitri Shostakovich
String Quartet No.7 in F-Sharp Minor, Op. 108
01 - I. Allegretto
02 - II. Lento
03 - III. Allegro - Allegretto

String Quartet No. 8 in C Minor, Op. 110
04 I. Largo
05 II. Allegro Molto
06 III. Allegretto
07 IV. Largo
08 V. Largo

String Quartet No. 9 in E-Flat Major, Op. 117
09 I. Moderato Con Moto
10 II. Adagio
11 III. Allegretto
12 IV. Adagio
13 V. Allegro


Darren Rea

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