Shostakovich String Quartet | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Shostakovich String Quartet

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The Shostakovich String Quartet was formed in 1967 but only assumed its present name in 1979--four years after the death of its namesake, the great Soviet composer and artistic conscience Dmitry Shostakovich. Shifting politics may have played a role in the name change; in any case, Shostakovich, for whom the string quartet was a fertile genre, deserved every bit of the belated tribute. In its local debut, the much-recorded Moscow-based quartet will offer a Russian sampler. Shostakovich's Quartet no. 7 (1960) may be the best on the program: overshadowed by the much better known no. 8 (an antiwar anthem) and seldom performed (in Chicago at least), it ranks high among the composer's 15 quartets for its meticulous architecture. Borodin's String Quartet no. 2 and Tchaikovsky's String Quartet no. 1, on the other hand, are famous--not so much for their musical merits as for a single enchanting movement in each. The nocturne from the otherwise sappily nostalgic Borodin piece is hauntingly languorous; the andante from the Tchaikovsky is based on a Russian folk song, the only personal touch in a quartet that comes across as copycat Schubert. The Shostakovich foursome were all trained at the Moscow Conservatory of Music--which proably explains why their fiddling is of the old Russian school: more emphasis on melodic lines, more liberties with tempi. Tonight, 8 PM, Mandel Hall, University of Chicago, 1131 E. 57th; 702-8068.

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