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 The Well-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.

• The DSCH-Shostakovich Ensemble was formed in 2006, the centenary of the birth of the composer whose name the group takes. This two-disc set of Complete Chamber Music for Piano and Strings (Paraty) is a mark both of their devotion to him, and their expert understanding. The ensemble’s founder, the Portuguese pianist Filipe Pinto-Ribeiro, is the binding force between the two piano trios, piano quintet and various sonatas. Adrian Brendel excels in the ferment and lyricism of the majestic Sonata for Cello and Piano, Op 40. Isabel Charisius, one-time violist of the Alban Berg Quartet, and Corey Cerovsek are similarly expressive in works for viola and violin.

• The pianist James Rhodes has just released a charming mixed-repertoire album on a 12-inch LP (Gluck, Chopin, Rachmaninov etc), punchily titled Fuck Digital (Signum). This week, Monday to Friday, 10.45pm on Radio 3’s The Essay, David Hepworth discusses our enduring and newly enthusiastic relationship with vinyl. Give it a spin.

Contributor

Fiona Maddocks

The GuardianTramp

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