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For the Atrium Quartet, to couple Beethoven and Shostakovich seemed self-evident: in the realm of the string quartet, these composers dominated their respective eras, and both made an indelible mark on the history of the genre. They left a number of works with similar features; both men juxtapose strongly contrasted moods, shifting rapidly from violence to meditative inwardness, from insouciance to melancholy.
‘Moreover, it is well known that thirteen of Shostakovich’s fifteen quartets were premiered by the Beethoven Quartet, founded in Moscow in 1923. This formation had made a name for itself by performing the complete cycle of Beethoven quartets in 1927, for the commemoration of the centenary of the composer’s death. Because of the demise of its cellist, Sergey Shirinsky, it was unable to give the premiere of Shostakovich’s String Quartet no.15, which was entrusted to the Taneyev Quartet – whose cellist Joseph Levinson subsequently became the mentor of the Atrium Quartet. So, a Beethoven-Shostakovich coupling? Self-evident, no doubt about it. ’ Hélène Cao
The ATRIUM STRING QUARTET is the first Quartet from Russia which has won the two most important International Competitions for String Quartets. They first rose to international prominence in April 2003 when they won the First Prize and the Audience Prize in the London International String Quartet Competition which was held at the prestigious Wigmore Hall, when they made their debut on BBC Radio 3 with a performance of the Fifth String Quartet of Shostakovich.
“The Shostakovich… is totally engrossing. …the Atriums sustain intensity throughout the epic structures of the first and third movements while managing to hold back sufficiently to make the ultimate climaxes all the more cataclysmic.”
“This is undoubtedly the finest recording of the Fifth Quartet to have appeared during recent years and if that of Beethoven's Harp Quartet is not of the same stature, then the smouldering pathos and visceral excitement that the Atrium draw from its slow movement and Scherzo respectively suggest that the Beethoven quartets are... hardly less ripe for further exploration. The Strium's Shostakovich, however, is a performance to treasure.”
“The Atrium Quartet won first prize in the 2003 London International String Quartet Competition with a gripping account of Shostakovich's Fifth Quartet – along with the Twelfth, the most wide ranging and powerfully wrought of the cycle, though among the least performed. On their disc, unfazed by its demands, the Atrium steer a propulsive course through the Allegro – easily the most persuasively argued of Shostakovich's sonata-form movements – and effect a suspenseful transition into the Andante, whose otherworldliness is underlined by the sparing but varied use of vibrato. Nor does the finale disappoint – its initial animation and violent culmination leading to a coda whose bittersweet oblivion is unerringly captured. This is undoubtedly the finest recording of the Fifth Quartet to have appeared during recent years and if that of Beethoven's Harp Quartet is not of the same stature, then the smouldering pathos and visceral excitement that the Atrium draw from its slow movement and Scherzo respectively suggest that the Beethoven quartets are territory hardly less ripe for further exploration. The Atrium's Shostakovich, however, is a performance to treasure. Decently recorded, too.”
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