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Reflections (Dudok Quartet Amsterdam)

Dudok Quartet Amsterdam (Rubicon)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Shostakovich: String Quartet No. 5; Preludes, Op. 34 – selection (arr. quartet); Bacewicz: String Quartet No. 4
Dudok Quartet Amsterdam
Rubicon RCD 1099   61:09 mins


This warmly recorded release couples Bacewicz’s Fourth Quartet and Shostakovich’s Fifth, both composed in the early 1950s during the final torrid years of Stalinism. On first acquaintance, the Bacewicz appears to be more outgoing, particularly in the exuberant and playful finale. But elsewhere there are disconcerting shadows, particularly in two memorable passages during the first movement where a haunting folk-like melody, accompanied by mysterious tremolo sounds, conveys a feeling of desolation and loneliness. Emotionally destabilising moments also appear in the Shostakovich, especially during the eerie slow movement and the painfully fragile closing bars, though much of the rest is tough and defiantly aggressive.

The Dudoks deliver a rhythmically dynamic and wonderfully nuanced account of the Bacewicz. Their Shostakovich is also impressive, projecting tremendous power, ferocity and forward momentum in the outer movements, and poignancy in the central Andante. Perhaps their overall tempo for the first movement is slightly pushed, contrary to the composer’s tempo marking of Allegro non troppo. In this respect, the slightly steadier approach of the Artemis Quartet (on Warner) creates a more powerfully cumulative symphonic effect, especially during the long and turbulent development section.

Yet the Dudoks’ high-quality playing is never in doubt. Furthermore, their brilliant and witty arrangements of a selection of Shostakovich’s 24 Preludes deserve special praise for making such intrinsically pianistic music sound so idiomatic in this guise.


Erik Levi