Pacifica Quartet | Ganz Hall, Roosevelt University | Classical | Chicago Reader

Pacifica Quartet Recommended Soundboard Critics' Picks

When: Sun., Feb. 13, 2 & 7 p.m. 2011

Shostakovich's 15 string quartets, played in a series of five concerts by the Pacifica Quartet at the Auditorium Building's Ganz Hall—the perfect storm of composer, ensemble, and venue—make for one centerpiece of the ongoing citywide Soviet Arts Experience festival, presenting art, dance, music, theater, and lectures through early 2012. (A Pacifica Shostakovich cycle is also in progress at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, with London's Wigmore Hall to follow; a recording is due on Cedille Records.) Shostakovich's music, inseparable from his life, is inevitably viewed through the prism of Soviet repression and, in the case of his later output, debilitating illness. His quartets are some of his most personal works—often disturbing, possessed of a tremendous pull, and so potent that it's easy not to notice how well crafted they are. At this concert, the fourth in the series, the Pacifica plays the quartets numbered 7, 10, 11, and 12. Unlike Beethoven's, Shostakovich's quartets don't neatly fall into groups, but in the later works his writing becomes increasingly austere, though with an expanded and more modern musical language. The virile 12th quartet, written as the composer was perhaps already feeling death's approach, contains a final burst of life. (The closing program of the series, Sun 2/27, will consist of the final three quartets, beginning with the achingly bleak 13th and culminating with the otherworldly six adagios of the 15th.) Shostakovich's writing rewards the Pacifica's strong individual voices. The players' delivery is rich but taut, and though it's perhaps not perfectly suited to the eeriness and desolation in these works, it's nonetheless powerfully emotionally charged. —Steve Langendorf

Price: $10 (students), $35

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