[NOTE: This review was written in February 2021 as part of my 2010-2019 decade-in-review post.]
I heard the Jerusalem Quartet play all 15 Shostakovich string quartets over the course of four concerts in 2013. I wish I had written about them at the time because they were extraordinary performances of music I hadn’t really heard before. I say “hadn’t really” because I’m sure had heard a few of them in the context of other string quartet concerts, but to hear them all in a week and a half, played with such force and style, it was something else.
Shostakovich had a difficult career. He was one of the giants of 20th century classical music but was shackled by the Soviet establishment to writing what they wanted him to write. He unburdened himself and let his spirit soar in his symphonies, string quartets, and other pieces of chamber music. You can hear his specific voice in the quartets, they have the Shostakovich balance of sweet and sour in a big way. And I could not have asked for a better performance than I heard by the Jerusalem Quartet. They dug into the drama, the heartache, and the genius.