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Home listening: where Beethoven, Shostakovich and Bach meet

Sparkling new releases from the Danish String Quartet, the DSCH-Shostakovich Ensemble and James Rhodes

The Danish String Quartet, a spirited and individualistic bunch of Scandinavians (three Danes, one Norwegian) who also play folk, have mostly preferred albums based around ideas rather than single composers. Prism 1(ECM) is the first of a five-disc project with Beethoven’s late quartets at the heart, starting with Op 127 in E flat. Each disc will have a JS Bach fugue (here in E flat, from ThWell-Tempered Clavier, Book II) and a more recent quartet composition: Shostakovich’s last quartet, No 15 in E flat minor, Op 144. (Notice the pivot around E flat.) The whole approach invites active, committed listening, from the wistful introspection of the Shostakovich to the extended, dazzling complexities of the Beethoven. The group plays with virtuosity, intensity and tenderness. With notes by the quartet and writer Paul Griffiths, and photographs of manuscript pages from the works in question, this is a thoughtful entity.

 

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