- Most recent comments from presenters -
"FABULOUS!!! They were wonderful! sounding as one. Heard rave reviews
during the intermission and after. They received an instant standing
ovation, not the kind where one or two stand and are later joined by .
. . the rest. My husband claims they are the best string quartet he
has ever heard, and he is quite the critic."
- Janet Moore, Utica Friends of Chamber Music
"The performance by the St. Petersburg String Quartet at the Austin
Chamber Music Festival took place last night and was a huge success.
CD sales went well too; half of their inventory that they brought was
gone by the end of the evening."
- Ora Shay, Austin Chamber Music Center
- Reviews -
:: 2013 ::
Program change doesn’t stop St. Petersburg String Quartet, pianist Tao Lin from dazzling
By Joseph Youngblood
Chamber music of the highest order filled the auditorium of The Society
of the Four Arts on Sunday afternoon, as the St. Petersburg (Russia)
String Quartet, with guest pianist Tao Lin, presented a concert of
music by Alexander Borodin (1833-1887), Sulkham Tsintsadze (1925-1991),
Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975), and Robert Schumann (1810-1856).
The quartet was founded in 1985. First violinist Alla Aranovskaya and
cellist Leonid Shukayev have been with the group since the beginning.
Violist Boris Vayner joined in 2005, and second violinist Evgeny
Zvonnikov in 2010. The group is quartet-in-residence at Wichita State
University in Kansas.
The concert was supposed to open with Borodin’s String Quartet No. 2.
This work was replaced, and only the third movement — which contains
the music that became And This Is My Beloved from the musical Kismet —
was performed. This work features the lyric voice of the cello sounding
above the other members of the quartet.
The program change was announced from the stage by Aranovskaya. The new
work was Five Miniatures on Jewish Folk Tunes, written in 1990 by
Sulkhan Tsintsadze, a prolific composer from what is now the country of
Two of the titles are in English: Feast Song and Tailor’s Song. The
other titles are a mixture of Hebrew and Yiddish: L’Chaim (To life),
Lomir ayle inem (Let us all together), and Lomir ich iberheiten (Let’s
forgive one another). All of the movements were played with flair, with
attractive passages played by the viola.
Pianist Tao Lin joined the quartet in Shostakovich’s Piano Quintet in G
minor, Op. 57. Lin is an amazing pianist. His playing is totally clean
and he alternates easily between delicate lyric passages and strong
assertive passages. The warm sound of the viola is heard several times
in exposed passages, and the cello is outstanding. The quartet as a
whole has many full-voiced passages, which are completely together.
The final work on the program was Schumann’s Quintet in E flat, Op. 44,
for piano and strings. The piano moves easily between melodic playing
and finger-busting aggressive passages. The March movement contains a
quick pickup note, which the strings did not always perform together.
The Scherzo brings rapid scales in sixths and octaves in the piano and
a wild scamper in the strings. The finale unites themes from the first
movement in a vigorous and at times heroic pace. It was an altogether
The group gave one encore: the brilliant Scherzo from Antonin Dvorak’s
Quintet for Piano and Strings in A, Op. 81.
The St. Petersburg String Quartet is an outstanding group, and Lin is a
dynamite pianist. It was a pleasure to hear them together.
:: 2012 ::
TMI Arts Page:
Music Mountain Opens with the St. Petersburg Quartet
(read full review)
:: 2011 ::
The Boston Musical Intelligencer
July 11, 2011
Russian Romantics Play Russian Romantics
By Leslie Gerber
While the St. Petersburg String Quartet has played previously at Maverick Concerts, its performance on Sunday, July 10, was its first in at least a decade. The ensemble made certain of its welcome by programming works by two very popular Russian composers. Between them, it gave us a more contemporary work that the Russians might well have admired. In his introductory remarks, Maverick’s Music Director Alexander Platt drew attention to the craftsmanship of Borodin’s familiar String Quartet No. 2, which he said was as elegantly constructed as a Mozart quartet. That may be a bit of an exaggeration, but I must admit that while bathing in Borodin’s gorgeous melodies, I had never paid much attention to the mechanics of his work, and it certainly is beautifully put together.
The St. Petersburg String Quartet, all Russian musicians, is now resident in the U.S. It has lost none of its grasp of Russian idiom. Its playing of Borodin used plenty of rubato, and its tonal quality was as lush as you’d ever want to hear. Yet there wasn’t a trace of sentimentality throughout the work, and the very good balance of the musicians (strong viola and cello to match the violins) kept me aware of the texture of the music. It’s not just a bunch of beautiful tunes strung together!
Alexander Platt is the twin brother of composer Russell Platt, which is our good fortune. The latter’s music has been heard at Maverick before, and I’ve always enjoyed it. My only complaint about his Quintet for Bassoon and Strings, written in 1995, is that it was rather short for its emotional content (nineteen minutes in this performance). The slow movement is literally a transcription of a song, and I felt it could use some expansion. Both Platts spoke of the music as Copland-esque, which it was if you consider only Copland’s “American” style. For a convenient description I’d call it neo-romantic. The music goes through a real emotional journey in a completely convincing progression. The bassoon has a somewhat soloistic role (and even a mesmerizing cadenza in the finale), but through most of the work it is integrated into the quartet texture.
Peter Kolkay, a member of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, is one of the best bassoonists I’ve heard. He plays with very beautiful tone, remarkable facility, and a consistently expressive outlook that made him a joy to hear. The StPSQ seemed completely comfortable with its role.
Tchaikovsky’s Second and Third Quartets, like the Second and Third Piano Concertos, are played so seldom they almost might as well not exist. In all of these cases I always wonder why. The Quartet No. 2, in F, Op. 22, is thoroughly characteristic Tchaikovsky, with the exception of the challenging, highly chromatic opening which is as out of character (and as prophetic) as the opening of Mozart’s “Dissonant” Quartet. Perhaps it is the melancholy tinge of this music that prevents it from being a hit, but that character hasn’t hurt the “Pathetique” Symphony and it shouldn’t hurt this remarkable work. It’s got the occasional folk dance moments and the Russian sorrowfulness that Tchaikovsky lovers cherish. Performances like this one, idiomatic, expressive, unexaggerated, and beautifully integrated, make the case for the music as well as anyone might want. Now, how about some more performances of this and the Third!
Charleston Post and Courier
Saturday, June 2, 2007
String quartet sweet perfection
By WILLIAM FURTWANGLER
The fact the St. Petersburg String Quartet returned to a mostly full St. Philip's Episcopal Church on Friday after a three-year absence is cause for rejoicing.
The quartet, from Russia, not Florida, is an unbeatable world-class ensemble. Their ensemble presentation is seamless and their musical insight is flawless.
Opening the Piccolo Spoleto Spotlight Concert with Bedrich Smetana's String Quartet No. 1 in E Minor "From My Life," the quartet's uncanny unity and cohesion, with judicious tempo changes, reflected the Czech spirit. Their exquisite playing revealed Smetana's lavish Czech and Bohemian melodies.
One of the first European nationalist composers, Smetana composed this quartet in 1876, after he had become deaf from syphilis. He also suffered from tinnitus, causing him to hear a continuous high note. He was quoted as saying it was "a shrill whistle of (an) A-flat in the highest register of the piccolo." This note appears on the first violin in the middle of last movement, seemingly out of place.
Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky's Quartet No. 1 in D Major (1871) has the distinctive Tchaikovsky sound some earlier works lack. He made his mark more with orchestral music than chamber music, but this work may sound familiar. Its second movement, Andante cantabile, is based on a folk song and was arranged by Tchaikovsky for cello and string orchestra.
This bigger version has been heard many more times than the whole quartet.
Again, the St. Petersburg was matchless, with a sound so exact that it almost defies description. Following the inevitable but genuine standing ovation, the St. Petersburg played a brief encore: the second movement of Igor Stravinsky's Three Pieces for String Quartet (1914), named "Eccentric," reflecting a clown named Little Tick.
The Washington Post
Monday, January 22, 2007; Page C05
Classical Music - St. Petersburg String Quartet
By Joan Reinthaler
You might think that discipline, passion and impetuousness inhabit different universes, but the St. Petersburg String Quartet has morphed the three into a powerful musical persona. The group's program on Saturday at Georgetown 's Dumbarton Concerts in Dumbarton United Methodist Church was well geared to display the many facets of its personality.
The concert opened with "Oriental," the second of Glazunov's Five Novelettes, a happy romp through a romantic's vision of the East that sounded more like a Western hoedown than an exotic fantasy. Its foot-stomping rhythms kept intricate textures in line and subtle sonorities in focus. It began with such a sense of motion that the listener felt as if this were something that had been going on for a while, and this momentum never quit.
The first, and lesser-known, of Borodin's Quartets is a compendium of musical devices, full of fugal snatches, passages in ringing harmonics and romantic lyricism. It is a little too long, too repetitious and too obvious but, played as well as it was on Saturday, it can be great fun. Individual lines had an opportunity to emerge, and violinists Alla Aranovskaya and Alla Krolevich, cellist Leonid Shukayev and violist Boris Vayner , who in ensemble were so ideally matched, proved also to have strong and interesting individual personalities.
Clarinetist Teddy Abrams, a 19-year-old Curtis Institute student who has played with the SPSQ for two years, joined the others for a gorgeous, well-shaped reading of the Brahms Clarinet Quintet. The first movement seemed deliberate, its occasional pauses opportunities for reflection and rededication. Abrams molded his lines with exquisite control of both dynamics and intensity (the latter especially) and moved in and out of the spotlight smoothly and with splendid artistry.
Review by EDITH EISLER
Read review in PDF format
Summer Chamber Classics - St Petersburg
Review by MICHAEL DERVAN
Read review in PDF format
Dvorak: Quartet 12; Mendelssohn: Quartet 2 with Tchaikovsky: Andante Cantabile
Ravel: Trio; Dvorak: Dumky Trio; Bloch: 3 Nocturnes
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Quartet displays its glory
Review by LINDSAY KOOB
Tuesday evening's Piccolo Spotlight concert featured the big sound and passionate musicianship of the St. Petersburg String Quartet, one of the festival's perennial smaller glories.
They chose to open the concert with the rich and effective "String Quartet No. 2," written in 2002 by contemporary American Donald Harris.
He achieved the kind of strength and intensity you would expect from Brahms, but by means of distinctly modern musical language.
Some of it wasn't pretty, thanks to plentiful dissonance and adventurous harmonies. But then, the human condition is not always pretty either, and Harris portrayed it here with stark emotional honesty.
Those who wonder if substantial and important music for string quartets is still being written nowadays are advised to hear this.
Mr. Harris was present to receive a hearty ovation along with his wonderful interpreters.
The musicians then truly entered their element with a lush and affecting account of Bedrich Smetana's "Quartet No. 1 in E Minor," subtitled "From my Life," perhaps his best known chamber work.
The ensemble's characteristic rich, juicy sound and heart-on-sleeve Russian emotionality perfectly complemented the music's rapturous beauty and deep Slavic pathos.
One marvel followed another, from searing evocations of passion and sorrow to moments of folksy charm and headlong abandon.
The only fly in the ointment for this listener was the repeated soft beeping of some nearby lout's unidentified hi-tech noisemaker, just loud enough to spoil some exquisite moments for those around him. For shame!
Some surely wondered if this group's hallmark old-school tonal richness and interpretive exuberance would prove compatible with the final work, Maurice Ravel's "Quartet in F," an often delicate and diaphanous masterpiece of French impressionism.
But the players proceeded to prove their supreme skill and versatility with playing of great dynamic sensitivity and interpretive subtlety, while adding a fresh dimension or two to the piece with their luscious sonorities.
Let us hope that this warm and wonderful ensemble will continue to grace many more Piccolo Spoleto festivals with their irresistible music-making.
Shostakovich's Staggering String Quartets
by Stephen Wigler
Shostakovich: String Quartets Nos. 10, 12 and 14
The Borodin Quartet's masterful 1970 cycle returns to the catalogue -- only to be outdone by the youngsters of the St. Petersburg Quartet.
Shostakovich stands on a particular pinnacle alongside Haydn, Mozart and
Beethoven: they are the only composers to have achieved equal success in
symphonies and string quartets. But the 15 quartets of Shostakovich had a harder
time establishing their place in the repertory than did those of his older
peers. As recently as 25 years ago, you were unlikely to encounter these
astonishing works unless you were lucky enough to hear a touring Soviet string
Shostakovich's quartets, which were written between 1938 and 1974, have been
regarded as a kind of private diary the personal testimony of a
composer who witnessed World War II, Stalinist terror, the Krushchev thaw, the
Cold War and the stagnation under Brezhnev. Western musicians, who understood
little about the sufferings of the Russian intelligentsia during the Stalin era,
knew even less what to make of Shostakovich's volatile music. They were
intimidated by the way, in the space of a few bars, gaiety is transformed into
anger, comedy into tragedy and the sublime into the ridiculous. Here were string
quartets in which music as solemn and elevated as a boy choir singing a Requiem
could suddenly sound like an accordion ensemble at an especially raucous wedding
or bar mitzvah.
Little wonder, then that the first ensembles to understand and perform this
music were Russian groups, most of whose members knew the composer: the
Beethoven Quartet, which gave the world premieres of 13 of the quartets in
Moscow; the Taneyev Quartet, which gave the Leningrad premieres; the Borodin
Quartet, which generally gave the third performances of these works in the
Soviet Union and the first ones in the West. So it was understandable that the
Fitzwilliam Quartet, which in the 1970s became the first Western ensemble to
perform and record all 15 of the quartets, felt compelled to visit Moscow
several times in order to study the music with Shostakovich before committing to
Ever since the Fitzwilliam's recordings, the Shostakovich
quartets have been fair game for other Western groups. In the last 10 years, the
Eder, Manhattan, Sorrell, Brodsky and Emerson quartets have recorded complete
cycles. The last of these was the most important, not only because of its
excellence but also for the prominent profile it acquired through clever
marketing. The Emerson is currently the best-known string quartet in the United
States and the "house" quartet for Deutsche Grammophon, classical music's most
prestigious record label. Released in 2000, the Emerson cycle was generally
hailed as having set a new standard for execution and created a new paradigm in
interpretation one less narrowly Russian in tone and atmosphere and
more accessible to international audiences.
Three years later, that opinion no longer seems so widely held. Increasing
numbers of listeners confess their attachment to the Borodin Quartet cycle on
EMI, in which they find more sentiment, satiric bite and self-mockery
the qualities that make Shostakovich sound like Shostakovich. The Borodin
players' identification with the composer, their insights into his music, their
first-rate instrumental skills and precise ensemble have set the standard for
recordings of these challenging works for two decades.
But that standard has been surpassed by two other Russian ensembles, an old
one that no longer exists and a young one made up of musicians in their 20s and
The EMI set, from 1983, was actually the Borodin's second recorded cycle: 13
years earlier, it had become the first ensemble to record the complete
Shostakovich quartets (or, at least, the 13 that had been written by 1970).
Those performances were absent from the catalog for a quarter-century until
Chandos Historical brought them back and there's no doubt about it:
they're superior to the later ones in almost every way.
For one thing, the Borodin Quartet was a better group in 1970 than in 1983.
Not long after the release of the first set, both of the ensemble's violinists,
Rostislav Dubinsky and Yaroslav Alexandrov, emigrated to the West. They were
replaced by Mikhail Kopelman and Andrei Abramenkov, neither of whom matched
their older counterparts technically or musically. But the major reason for the
lapse in quality was the absence of Dubinsky, the Borodin's first violinist and
founder, under whose leadership the group had become one of the greatest
quartets of the 20th century. Not only are Borodin I's intensity greater and its
technical mastery more secure than those of Borodin II, but its interpretive
decisions are musically more insightful.
Take, for instance, the first and second movements of the Fifth Quartet,
which are tied together by an uninterrupted high F in the first violin. The
Kopelman-led Borodin (1983) plays the end of the first movement very slowly;
that tempo makes the opening of the slow second movement less dramatic, and
Kopelman's audible difficulty in sustaining his tone is distracting. The
Dubinsky-led Borodin (1970) has slightly faster tempo which ramps up the drama
as the slow movement begins and makes it easier for the violinist to sustain his
high-lying line, which acquires a penetrating, disquieting quality.
Another telling example is the Eighth Quartet. In the profoundly despairing
slow movement, the later performance, as good as it is, fails to match the
depths plumbed by the earlier one; in the second movement, perhaps the most
famous of Shostakovich's hammering, percussive scherzos, the 1983 Borodin sounds
tepid compared to the hard-driving ferocity of the 1970 group.
One could make similar comparisons throughout most of the first 13 quartets.
Borodin II is very good; Borodin I is all but matchless.
That qualifying "all but" is necessary because of the St. Petersburg String
Quartet's recording of the Tenth, Twelfth and Fourteenth Quartets. This is the
penultimate disc in a remarkable series; when Hyperion issues the final disc
(which will couple the First Quartet with the Piano Quintet) in early 2004, it's
likely that St. Petersburg's will be regarded as the finest complete
Shostakovich cycle on disc. There certainly has been plenty to admire in the
four previous CDs: the wall of sound, beautiful and luxurious as well as loud,
that opens the Fourth Quartet; the savagery and irresistible momentum that sweep
a listener off his feet in the first movement of the Sixth; the mixture of gloom
and desperation, energy and exhilaration throughout the Eighth.
The St. Petersburg players are just as fine on this disc. In their hands, the
10th's second movement allegretto furioso is a stupendous
outburst that bludgeons the listener, and the finale, with its hurdy-gurdy Armenian
flavor, is captivating. The 12th Quartet is also extraordinary: the music's journey from
the bittersweet opening of the first movement moderato
into the second movement's unease and
dread and on to the work's triumphant resolution suggests the kind of musical
path upon which Beethoven, in his late period, traveled. Finally, there is the 14th Quartet,
written in the year before Shostakovich's death: the St. Petersburg's
performance makes the final movement, with its motifs flying from violin to
viola to cello and back, sound like a Dostoyevskian disquisition on the meaning
CLASSICAL VOICE OF NORTH CAROLINA
St. Petersburg String Quartet Concert I
by William Thomas Walker
When second violinist David Chernyavsky prefaced the St. Petersburg
String Quartet's December 4 performance with the comment that the musicians
would at times be "playing four independent parts, often separated
by different meters," I had a shuddering flashback from enduring
Elliot Carter's Third Quartet decades ago. In the event, the Duke University
Reynolds Theatre audience had a much more listener-friendly experience
than the austere academic style I recalled. Georgian composer Zurab Nadarejshvili
(b. 1957) draws upon folk elements — spirited dances — and
Georgia's characteristic polyphonic choral tradition. His Quartet No.
1 (1983), which according to the composer "reflect(s) ... the emotional
experience of the Georgian people during the period of Stalinism and
World War II," is in three movements that have in common a fading
into silence as each ends. Beginning with a dirge-like slowness, the
first movement features a soulful chant-like theme, spun by the cello,
that embodies mourning the victims of Stalinist tyranny. The fast second
movement has a folk dance flavor and employs a wide range of unconventional
techniques — high exposed notes, bowing close to the bridge, slapping
the belly and sides of the instruments with the hands, slapping the strings
with the back of the bow, etc. Here each player's part is a different
motif at a different meter. The solemn mood of the first movement returns
in the third, which features an extended mournful melody for the first
violin — a wailing for the dead — after the introduction,
with extended pizzicatos over a droning cello line. All the members of
the St. Petersburg Quartet played with great virtuosity and profound
musicianship. The balances were excellent, intonation was exemplary,
even in the highest positions, the string tone was full and warm, and
the phrasing was deeply communicative.
The centenary of Antonín Dvorák's death has brought a
welcome variety to our concert halls, with unjustly neglected masterpieces
being given an airing — a welcome break from a too-steady diet
of the composer's popular "American" Quartet, Op. 96. Bubbling
over with joy and gorgeous melodies, the composer's Quartet No. 14 in
A-flat, Op. 105, made a perfect foil for the St. Petersburg's other two
selections, tinged with sorrow and tragedy. Ambivalence between melancholic
and ebullient elements leavens the score. At times, there are echoes
of the soundscape of the "New World" Symphony. The musicians'
virtues, heard in the Nadarejshvili, were brought to bear in an interpretation
that was as richly satisfying as it was glowing and heartfelt.
The ensemble was equally imaginative in its choice of Dmitry Shostakovich's
Quartet No. 9 in E-flat, Op. 117 (1964), instead of the more often played
Third Quartet or the Fifth or the Eighth. With many composed for what
the composer called "the drawer," meant to be premiered in
less repressive times, the string quartets contain some of Shostakovich's
most personal music They deserve to be programmed with the same frequency
as late Beethoven, Brahms, and Bartók. The Ninth, dedicated to
Irina Antonovna, his third wife, reflects his happy marriage, and the
overall mood of the quartet is cheerful by Shostakovich's standards.
Its five movements are played without pause. The opening's light textures
and bouncy rhythms are followed by chorale-like adagio that leads to
an allegretto dominated by a jaunty polka that becomes wilder as it unfolds.
(Its relentless drive reminds me of music written for a comic chase.)
The second slow movement suggests the sound world of Mussorgsky's Boris
Godunov, which Shostakovich had recently re-orchestrated. Two-fifths
of the quartet is taken up by the concluding allegro, which features
a redevelopment of all the preceding material. The St. Petersburg players
delivered it with astonishing intensity, deploying a wide palette of
string techniques including dramatic pizzicatos, hairpin changes of meter
or bowings, etc., thus meeting every demand of the score and fully delineating
the emotional depth of the piece.
CLASSICAL VOICE OF NORTH CAROLINA
Revealing the Soul of Russia
by Jeffrey Rossman
The concert presented by Duke Performances on December 5 was a first
in several respects and a unique experience for patrons of the Chamber
Arts Society. This is the 59th season of the prestigious series but this
was the first time that a concert was presented on a Sunday afternoon
and the first time that an ensemble gave a second performance immediately
following their usual Saturday night booking. If this was an experiment
in a different kind of programming – established chamber music
programming is by its very nature conservative, so this is a change but
the concept is not radical – then it was a resounding success.
The St. Petersburg Quartet had played to a nearly sold-out audience the
night before (see my colleague William Thomas Walker's review of that
concert), and 19 hours later they again had to contend with competition
from the annual Messiah weekend at Duke Chapel. Those who attended either
of these excellent performances know that the competition for parking
spaces was fierce. The start of the quartet program was delayed to accommodate
the poor souls lost in Duke's traffic nightmare.
Despite all these obstacles, there was again a nearly sold-out house
for this Sunday "experiment." (Duke Performances will be presenting
another doubleheader on January 8 and 9, featuring the Eroica Trio.)
I think one of the reasons for the tremendous reception given the second
presentation was the variety of programming on the two concerts. No matter
how much any of us loves particular groupings of instruments, it is safe
to say that mixture in the programming lineup is usually preferable,
especially when the works involved are masterpieces played by exemplary
musicians. This concert had the distinction of featuring a string quartet,
a piano trio, and a piano quintet, all on the same program.
The first half of the program took off where the previous evening left
off, with Russian works played by four musicians who have the music ingrained
in their souls. At this point it is apt to bring up the old question
of whether ethnic or nationalistic music is better understood and played
by those who are born into its culture. I don't pretend to have "the
answer," but it was apparent that these players brought something
quite special to works written by Russian composers.
The eclectic program began with the afternoon's only selection for string
quartet. Alexander Glazunov, although not as widely known or played now
as the other big Russian names, was a prolific and popular composer in
the early 20th century. His Three Novelettes (from Five
were written for a chamber music soiree in 1886, and the lovely, folk-inspired
pieces launched the wonderfully varied concert. Their lively rhythms,
simple but effective melodies, and an authentic "folksy" feel
gave the afternoon a light and festive start – with the more serious
stuff coming up.
Pianist Maxim Mogilevsky joined first violinist Alla Aranovskaya and
cellist Leonid Shukaev in a powerful reading of one of the masterpieces
of 20th-century chamber music, Dmitri Shostakovich's Piano Trio No. 2
in E minor. Written in 1943-44, it is a work that runs the gamut of emotions
from profound sorrow at the horrors of the war to brief gestures of uncontained
joy before returning to immeasurable grief. The players revealed the
emotional depths of Shostakovich's music – the performance was
at times so powerful that it seemed you were listening to a musical depiction
of raw, exposed nerves. Despite the undeniable technical brilliance,
that aspect of the performance took a back seat to the almost frightening
realism and baring of souls. Such a spell was cast that, when it ended,
it felt like blasphemy to break out with something as crude as smashing
one hand against the other. There was a palpable sense among the attendees
that they had just experienced a truly transcendent performance.
There are many "what if" games music lovers play. What if
Mozart or Schubert or Mendelssohn had lived even ten years longer? On
the flip side, imagine what we'd be missing if Bach had died when he
was 40. Or consider all of the music written that was destroyed by its
creators because it wasn't up to their standards. Johannes Brahms was
perhaps the most self-critical composer of them all, and he literally
burned countless works.
The whole entourage returned to the stage to play Brahms' Piano Quintet
in F minor, which went through several transformations before arriving
at the form we know and love today. It began life as a string quintet
with a second cello – this version was destroyed – and also survives
as a piano duo. You can imagine how Brahms agonized over the use of piano
in its final incarnation..., but it is a wonderful and well-balanced
work that is viewed as one of the great piano quintets – a very
We hope that the enormous success of this weekend with the St. Petersburg
Quartet plus pianist Mogilevsky will signal to the presenter that the
two-concert format is both profitable and musically satisfying. It shows
that even slight variations in format and tradition can reap big results.
April 29, 2004
“St. Petersburg String Quartet
Presented by Buffalo Chamber Music Society.
Tuesday evening in Kleinhans' Mary Seaton Room.
The highly regarded St. Petersburg String Quartet made its Buffalo debut on
this series in 1997, and returned on Tuesday evening with an all-Russian
program which was absorbing in a number of different ways.
It opened with the Buffalo premiere of the 1985 Quartet No. 1 by Georgian
composer Zurab Nadarejshvili.
This highly dramatic work is said by the composer to reflect the Georgian
people's response to Stalinist oppression.
Its outer slow movements form a long arch structure, emerging from silence in
a dream-like reminiscence of gauzy, eerie harmonics, then sinking back into a
similarly vague realm at the very end. The layered, linear progression
through these slow movements cannot help reminding one of the music of Arvo Part.
In stark contrast, the central Allegro is an insistently dense, prickly piece
that dissolves into a diminishing thicket of percussive raps on the
With only the St. Petersburg's 1999 Delos recording as a benchmark, it must
be noted that their Tuesday performance of this Allegro was so markedly toned
down in aggressiveness and violent thrust as to seem almost a rewrite by the
composer. Or could it be the new second violin and viola that made the
At any rate, the work seems to hang together more convincingly with the
softer, more muted Allegro.
Initially this music's Georgian chants, folk melodies and dramatic posture
can be quite absorbing, yet in retrospect it seemed more like posturing, a large
abstract sonic canvas, part musical and part mere sound effects, more
melodramatically calculated than deeply felt by the composer.
A noticeably more human experience was offered by the 1944 Shostakovich
Quartet No. 2.
Written under the duress of war, it deals guardedly with the emotional
heights and depths of Soviet life, possibly the composer's response to the recently
broken 900-day blockade of Leningrad.
One senses Shostakovich's camouflaged emotions in the music's irony, whimsy
and sardonic qualities, all eminently accessible to the audience and all
magnificently spun out by the artists. This was especially true of the beautifully
declamatory violin solo by Alla Aronovskaya woven through the visionary and
audacious slow movement (Recitative and Romance), and in the muted expressiveness
of the wistful Waltz that followed.
These were previews of the highly imaginative new ways of combining four
string instruments Shostakovich would invent in his subsequent 13 quartets.
While this is a turning point in the composer's evolving mastery of the
quartet idiom, it does not attempt to duplicate in chamber form the powerfully
searing messages embedded in the contemporary Symphonies Nos. 7 and 8.
All these qualities were superbly projected by the St. Petersburg musicians
in an intensely centered yet beautifully nuanced performance.
The concert concluded with Tchaikovsky's seldom-heard Quartet No. 2.
He considered its first movement to be one of his most personally heartfelt
creations, and the performance revealed that its complex construction and
emotional intensity require closer listener concentration than in most Tchaikovsky
The signature use of brief, ear-catching motifs such as a repeated-note
triplet figure and a descending three-note motto solidified the following scherzo
and slow movement, and the quartet wound down with a sprightly finale of
winning gaiety, even playfulness.
At two and a quarter hours, it was a generous concert, but the artists still
appended a brief encore, a fast Jewish folk dance with a spirit somewhere
between klezmer and hoe-down.”
September 27, 2003
“Tuesday’s appearance of the St. Petersburg String Quartet . . . was the
calm before the impending storm called Isabel. However, musically, it was a
musical storm of significant magnitutde that swept its full-house audience into
gales of appreciation and awe over the incredibly fine playing heard. Although
the group appeared previously on this esteemed series, its continuing reputation
for excellence beyond compare certainly preceded its return showing and made
the anticipation all the more keen . . . the second violin and viola have
changed . . . it’s somewhat rare to find replacements that are at least as good if
not better than the original. The St. Petersburg has been fortunate in
keeping the good sounds coming. In the here and now, the ensemble’s sound is intact
and thriving . . . the membership change did not seem to disrupt the group’s
sense of musical nuance . . . Such maturity of approach and musical insight
into all aspects of its business are quite rare and quite marvelous . . . Similar
synergy exists with other chamber music ensembles, but few exhibit the same
degree and depth of feeling . . . “you had to have been there” . . . to gain
full appreciation and understanding of how superbly these traits were rendered.
The St. Petersburg is a quartet to be seen and savored. And thus this concert
was seen by a capacity house and savored to its fullest. From the delightful
and exotic sounds of the opening ‘Novelettes,’ to the plaintive and
powerfully expressive lines of the Shostakovich, to the joyfulness and thoughtfulness
of the closing Beethoven, the St. Petersburg regaled its willingly captive
audience with rich, sublimely blended sounds, wonderfully articulate technique,
and defined musical meaning. The performance was essentially flawless, one that
was filled with listener delight and musical savvy.”
- The Virginia Gazette
April 16, 2003
St. Petersburg quartet shines
By Richard S. Ginell, Special to Los Angeles Times
In a welcome return to the Music Guild series at Cal State Northridge on Monday night, the St. Petersburg String Quartet served up a program that focused upon this group's musical and emotional core. Yet it took some last-minute reshuffling of the announced lineup to reach this point.
The most significant addition was an amazingly mature Quartet No. 1 by Natalya Medvedovskaya, who wrote it at age 18 (she's now 29). Only eight minutes long, the piece has a tight, arching structure, good ideas that are bounced around the instruments and a restless, dramatic temperament audibly handed down from Shostakovich.
Earlier, the quartet turned to a St. Petersburg touchstone, Shostakovich's Quartet No. 4. Its first recording for Sony (now deleted from the catalog, alas) is the most fevered, passionate one I've ever heard; the recent remake on Hyperion is slower, warmer, with less of an edge. This performance juxtaposed elements of both.
In place of Smetana's "From My Life" Quartet, the St. Petersburg substituted zesty renditions of two entries, one in the form of waltz and the other in Hungarian style, from another calling card, Glazunov's "Five Novelettes." And the foursome swept into Dvorak's Quartet No. 14 with much enthusiasm and its tightest ensemble work of the evening.
"The St. Petersburg ensemble, which started out as the Leningrad String
Quartet in 1985, ranks among the best chamber groups on the current scene.
Sunday's performance for the Shriver Hall Concert Series demonstrated why.
Tightly matched in tone and temperament, the players did not just delve into
the notes of scores by Borodin, Shostakovich and Zurab Nadarejshvili, but
into the poetic worlds lying behind each.
Borodin's Quartet No. 2, with its shimmering lyricism, received an
exquisite account, relaxed in pace and imbued with rhythmic flexibility.
There was plenty of tension in the performance of Shostakovich's compact
Quartet No. 9, which packs just about all of his emotions, positive and
negative, into a single, unbroken train of thought. The music seemed to fly
by, each change of mood and coloring superbly delineated.
The Quartet No. 1 by Nadarejshvili, a contemporary composer from the
Republic of Georgia, is largely in the mystical, time-slowing vein common to
several others writing in Russia, Eastern Europe and England. This example is
very personal and makes its greatest effects more through contemplation than
outward gestures; even the device of rhythmic tapping on the instruments (in
the second movement) is employed in an exceptionally subtle, internal manner.
The St. Petersburg musicians gave the piece a mesmerizing performance."
- Baltimore Sun, March 4, 2003
"ST. PETERSBURG QUARTET PLAYS WITH ONE VOICE
Masters of subtlety and refinement, the members of the
St. Petersburg String Quartet embodied the chamber music ideal of four voices speaking as
one... there was nothing tepid or unilluminating about the music-making."
- Los Angeles Times
"Five stars for performance and sound"
- BBC Music Magazine (CD Review of Glazunov Quartet
No. 5 and Novelettes on Delos)
"STUNNING SHOSTAKOVICH FROM ST.PETERSBURG QUARTET
An impassioned performance of Shostakovich's Quartet No.9 by the St.
Petersburg Quartet confirmed the group's heady reputation as premier
interpreters of this 20th-century giant...unassailable technique and
intonation, and, more importantly, [they] got the emotional temperature
right...an astonishingly calibrated range of voicings and dynamics...The
Russians delivered [Borodin's Quartet No.2] with sinew, luscious tonal blend
and phrasing that surged with ardor...[The encore] was turned with
breathtaking assurance and laugh-out-loud wit."
- Washington Post
"Extraordinary intensity and depth...
They paid unswerving attention to the
arching structures within movements, taking their time building the broad
fugue of the Adagio into an overwhelming climax, making scorching work of
- Los Angeles Times
"QUARTET DELIVERS BIG, ROBUST PERFORMANCE
The superb st. Petersburg String Quartet...can be appreciated on several
levels. The quartet's big robust sound was so prevalent that it seems to be
a signature trait...yet [they] also offered great depth in quiet, controlled
playing, a rousing celebratory feeling in folklike tunes...Perhaps best was
the quartet's sense of common accord... a standout example of how the
ensemble projected unity, while also allowing for individual instrumental
- Indianapolis Star
"The benchmark comparison with the Borodin Quartet on Teldec invariably
favours the St. Petersburg . . . this new release makes one impatient
for the ensemble's next Shostakovich disc."
-BBC Music Magazine (Review of CD of Shostakovich
Quartets Nos. 2 & 3 on Hyperion)
" . . . in the St. Petersburg we have the natural
successor to the Borodin's crown. These virtuosic and sumptuous-toned
accounts of the A and F major Shostakovich quartets-heralding a
complete cycle on Hyperion-easily rival the quasi-orchestral sonority
the older quartet brought to this music . . . A dazzling debut."
-The Sunday Times (London)
"The St. Petersburg String Quartet demonstrates
its innate affinity with these five Russian works (Quartets of Shostakovich
and Prokofiev) and offers impressively polished and perceptive accounts
. . . rhythmic and full-blooded . . . character, energy and musical
insight. The players' powerfully wrought performance of Shostakovich's
Third Quartet compares favourably with competition past and present."
"The idiomatic performances were riveting . . .
The quartet created a great diversity of effects [in Glazunov's
"Novelettes"]. They made the complex harmonies sound as if they
were being produced by a much larger ensemble. And their delicate
playing of high-lying phrases seemed to emanate from a single voice
. . . [Nadarejshvili's Quartet No.2] is a favorite of the quartet-and
of much of the audience after the performance. Nadarejshvili represents
a viable future for 21st century music . . . he never forgets the
audience connection . . . emotionally satisfying."
-St. Paul Pioneer Press
"One of the most spectacularly well-knit groups
in the world . . . In perfection of cleanly blended tone and intonation,
it surpasses even groups like the Emerson . . . It was hard to imagine
Tchaikovsky's Quartet, Op.11 played with more soulful warmth and
breadth, yet exquisitely dovetailed tone and expressive phrasing.
Even the familiar Andante cantabile sounded newly minted and the
effortless interplay in the Allegro giusto finale was almost literally
breathtaking. There was incidental probing of each nook and cranny
of the score, but with absolutely no sacrifice of spontaneity. Amazing."
"A consistently creamy tone and commanding technical
finish . . . A performance of heated commitment."
"QUARTET RAVISHES WITH RUSSIAN PROGRAM, RAVEL
Plenty of white heat (in Shostakovich Quartet No.8). . . abandon,
propulsion and rhapsodic volatility (in Tchaikovsky Quartet No.1)
. . . the encore was an inexplicable rarity: Glazunov's delightful,
reel-like Novelette ("Orientale").
-Los Angeles Times
"The playing . . . cut to the emotional core of
(Prokofiev's) music . . . in Tchaikovsky's Quartet No.1 . . . so
rich were the sonorities that the four players sounded like a string
symphony . . . they let the music sing, breathe, ebb and flow .
. . The authoritative performance was well-received by the good-sized
-Cleveland Plain Dealer
"Splendid from start to finish . . . Elegant, stylish
and extraordinarily musical, the St. Petersburg boasts a dazzling
technique and beautifully blended sound . . . Its sense of musical
synergy is the sort upon which exceptional careers are based . .
. the group is firmly positioned among the stars of the chamber
"WORDS INADEQUATE FOR PERFECTLY EXECUTED PERFORMANCE . . . the performance was so magical that there was very little
I could write to illustrate what I saw for those not present."
-Durham Herald Sun
"The St. Petersburg String Quartet played an all-Russian
program with polish and passion . . . Every work had been composed
quickly, within a six-week period at most, and showed something
of the freshness of inspiration that art created rapidly with intense
concentration often has. The quartet conveyed that inspiration with
an equal freshness in the performance, derived from an obvious love
of the music and a love of playing together . . . as well as a profound
understanding of the art of ensemble playing . . . The love-duet
(in Borodin's Quartet No.2) was spun out with aching tenderness
by cellist Leonid Shukaev and violinist Alla Aranovskaya . . . the
St. Petersburg delivered a precisely nuanced performance of Shostakovich
(Quartet No.2) that never became too slick and prettified the grandeur,
pathos and rough humour of this immense work."
-The Toronto Star
"Played with passion and precision . . . It's hard
to imagine a more persuasive account of the work (Nadarejshvili's
Quartet No.1) . . . The St. Petersburg players also did a tremendous
job with Prokofiev's Quartet No.2 . . . They even made a good case
for Glazunov's Quartet No.5 in D minor . . . he is worth hearing
every once in a while, particularly when the performers bring the
kind of advocacy to his work that we heard on Thursday."
"The formidable quartet realized the work (Shostakovich
Quartet No.9) with compelling gusto."
-Los Angeles Times
"The St. Petersburg String Quartet, which is about
as passionate a group of string players as you're likely to hear
. . . paid its second visit to Dallas in as many years . . . Once
again the Russians impressed with their emotional commitment and
singleness of vision . . . Last season their Dallas program included
Shostakovich's String Quartet No.1. On Monday in the Caruth Auditorium,
they played the Quartet No.2. If this is the start of a Shostakovich
quartet cycle, they could appear annually until they hit the 15th
quartet in 2011-and no one's likely to protest."
-Dallas Morning News
"Many of the great string quartets of mid-century
and beyond have been frequent visitors to the San Antonio Chamber
Music Society-the Budapest, the Hungarian, the Italiano, the Juilliard,
the Tokyo. The St. Petersburg String Quartet . . . fully deserves
a place in that pantheon. This concert was music-making of the highest
order-total craft wedded to total engagement.To borrow a phrase
from TV bang-em-ups, the St. Petersburg was all over this music
like white on rice . . . this troupe is capable of transcending
mere perfection, to take risks, to play with passionate intensity."
-San Antonio Express News
"(The St. Petersburg Quartet's) realization of
Shostakovich's Quartet No.13, one of the composer's most remote
and uncompromising creations, was magisterial. It was the fourth
Shostakovich performance (in the Strings of the Future Festival),
but the first in which one could hear the composer in his unfettered
" . . . gorgeously performed by the St. Petersburg
-The National Post (Canada)
"Piccolo Spoleto accomplished another major coup
by again attracting one of the world's best ensemble groups. And,
clearly, the word was out. Not a seat was left . . . These Russians
possess an organic connectedness with the music of their countrymen,
and can play these Slavic masters like nobody else: with heart,
passionate understanding and poetry. What joy these interpreters
of the Russian soul brought to a church full of festival-goers."
-Charleston Post and Courier
"It was a remarkably good year for classical music
. . . Top concerts by touring ensembles (included) the St. Petersburg
String Quartet's extreme intensity and polish in performances of
works by Shostakovich, Prokofiev and Glazunov for the San Antonio
Chamber Music Society."
-San Antonio Express News
"The committed advocacy of great performers must
be the fondest dream of any aspiring composer. . . the enterprising
efforts of violinist Gidon Kremer . . . accelerated immeasurably
(the renown of Schnittke and Arvo Pärt) in the West. Now the superb
St. Petersburg String Quartet seems determined to do something similar
for Zurab Nadarejshvili, a 40-year-old Georgian composer. Indeed,
the group placed his Piano Quintet, a work from 1989, on a remarkable
pedestal for its world premiere on Thursday evening at the Miller
Theater. The Quartet opened the evening with strong performances
of two of Shostakovich's more imposing quartets, No.3 in F and No.12
in D flat. As on its splendid Sony recordings, it delivered big,
extroverted performances, with each note given a distinctive expressive
profile. The players (joined by pianist Justin Blasdale) were obviously
taking a calculated risk, giving Mr. Nadarejshvili a hard act to
follow, and they redeemed their gamble with a compelling performance
of his work . . . (a) haunting and innovative piece . . . a fresh
and innovative voice . . . His music should receive wider circulation,
and undoubtedly will as the career of the splendid St. Petersburg
String Quartet continues to rise."
-New York Times
"QUARTET'S GENEROUS RETURN . Honored, prized
and admired . . . the St. Petersburg String Quartet continues to
extend its influence. At its third Southern California visit, the
strong musical impressions the quartet made (on previous visits)
was reinforced . . . an ensemble of special accomplishment; their
performances have authority, style, and breadth. Their technical
cre-dentials include high polish and immaculate detailing, and their
probing of substantive musical matters yields genuine depth. . .
The centerpiece of the quartet's latest appearance . . . was Shostakovich's
Third Quartet, a demanding and kaleidoscopic work the four players
delivered with aplomb, all moods expressed, all dynamics gauged-and
with a lively sense of spontaneity. Pianist Mack McCray . . . joined
the quartet for a colorful exhumation of the Quintet by César Franck,
making its convoluted rhetoric seem natural and unraveling for the
listener its many complexities. The performance uncovered sometimes
forgotten charms in the score."
-Los Angeles Times
"Among the Russian cultural treasures brought to
light by the dismantling of the Iron Curtain is the St. Petersburg
String Quartet . . . its reputation now rests on a solid foundation
of collective vision and musical savvy, to judge from a small but
impressive group of recordings on Sony Classical . . . (Borodin's)
buoyant, tuneful, ever popular Second Quartet attests to the St.
Petersburg's cohesive temperament and the players' ability to match
one another in phrase and gesture . . . a performance of virtually
flawless ensemble . . . The St. Petersburg's stylish, supple, openhearted
performances raise the question of why the Tchaikovsky Quartets
have not enjoyed full partnership in the company of Beethoven, Brahms
and Bartók . . . to hear that much-abused music treated with the
respect, insight and spiritual rapport shown by the St. Petersburg
players is to grasp the internal drive, the emotional logic, of
Tchaikovsky's compositional process . . . By connecting with Shostakovich's
emotion without wallowing in the gestures, the St. Petersburg Quartet
ennobles the music. Indeed, these eloquent, technically adroit performances
belie the group's relative youth and open the way to a Shostakovich
cycle of distinction and lasting value."
-New York Times
BEST CD OF THE MONTH: Shostakovich Quartets Nos.3,5
& 7 "The St. Petersburg performances are characterized by great
lucidity, fine ensemble, and passionate insight-a sense of being
uncontrivedly inside the music. I get the feeling that these young
Russians understand every unspoken thought behind every half-concealed
gesture, but they address the music purely, without gratuitous underscoring
of the subtexts . . . the St. Petersburgers bring to bear not only
unreserved commitment but also technical assurance at the very highest
level, which enables them to concentrate fully and confidently on
interpretive ends. The effortless brilliance of the prominent pizzicato
episodes in all three works, for example, really make the listener
sit up-not just because of the brilliant playing but for the way
it registers Shostakovich's expressive points."
"This decade-old quartet displayed astonishing
sophistication and self-confidence, most notably through subtle
dialogue and sure, expressive intonation . . . The St. Petersburg
brought (Shostakovich's Quartet No.8) to life in a controlled, lucid
"They showed a remarkable unity of spirit, so in
touch with one another in the ebb and flow of the music that it
almost seemed to be coming from one organism."
-Dallas Morning News
"ST. PETERSBURG QUARTET'S ELEVATED PERFORMANCE
SOARS WITH COHESIVE ENERGY. This opening concert of the new
season was happily announced by the Buffalo Chamber Music Society
as a sell-out. Even more happily, the performances by the St. Petersburg
String Quartet should have left every member of the large audience
with enough fond memories to last for quite a while. But it wasn't
just the performances. The design of the program itself was imminently
satisfying . . . with an elevated performance like this, it's easy
to believe you were hearing the music as Shostakovich conceived
it in his mind's ear . . . exquisite grace and vitality (in Tchaikovsky's
Quartet No. 1) . . . the commitment and passion of the St. Petersburgers
. . . took us light years beyond the nuts and bolts (of Glazunov's
Quartet No. 5)."
-The Buffalo News
"CHAMBER OPENER GLORIOUS . . . (ThePiccolo
Spoleto Festival) got off to a rousingly successful opening Monday
evening by featuring the St. Petersburg String Quartet . . . the
program was made up of some glorious sounds worth re-hearing and
re-experiencing . . . held the audience entranced throughout."
-Charleston Post and Courier
"A world-class ensemble . . . exquisite performance
of Borodin's Quartet No.1 . . . there was an athletic quality to
their playing, a breathtaking combination of strenuousness and natural
ease . . . they played Haydn's Quartet in F minor, Op.20 No.5, with
thrilling ferocity and grace."
-New York Newsday
"The St. Petersburg String Quartet . . . had this
reviewer appreciating anew-how else to put it-the sheer Russianness
of Russian music-making at its best. In comparison, even so estimable
a group as the ( ) Quartet . . . can sometimes leave you with the
impression that they have thought their way into that music's universe
of discourse . . . Which is a way of saying that on home ground-here
it was the Quartet No.2 by Shostakovich, a Russian, and the Quartet
(1985) by Nadarejshvili, a Georgian-the St. Petersburg Quartet would
not know how to sound unidiomatic. We were off (in the Nadarejshvili)
into regions of fierceness or quiet that leapt upon us urgently
but were always part of a story-telling impetus that (for all its
technical sophistication) seemed ageless. The sound of ancient church
chants . . . could be heard in it, along with something like the
tone of troubled 20th-century humanness . . . Vivid, gripping music
indeed . . . The St. Petersburg Quartet played it as if for dear
life. The Shostakovich Second . . . was precisely the sort of piece
that made the Nadarejshvili possible. The St. Petersburg Quartet
brought to it an intensity and commitment, and a level of tonal
firepower . . . that brooked no resistance."
"Any list of highlights from the recently-concluded
Piccolo Spoleto Festival would have to include the début recital
of the St. Petersburg String Quartet, properly identified by the
New York Times as 'one of Russia's cultural treasures.' . . the
quartet left its audience cheering with a performance of Shostakovich's
Fourteenth String Quartet."
"CONCERT EXHIBITS PERFECT LINKING OF MUSIC,
MUSICIANS Tuesday's performance was simply fabulous . . . with
their elegant style and deep emotional involvement, the St. Petersburg
members burned their performance into my memory."
"Such an engrossing, convincing performance . .
. this is a group very much on the fast track . . . The St. Petersburg
combines the power and emotionalism of the great American quartets
with European style precision and loving attention to detail. Their
sound is amazingly unified, with a dark, rich tone that will become
their signature, phrasing so tight that it was hard to tell who
was playing what line, intonation so secure . . . (The Haydn) was
subtle and elastic, burnished with that luxuriant tone, rubato startling
in its unanimity . . . the finale's beautifully tempered fugue won
shouts and whistles at the end, unusual for the opening piece on
a program. The audience kept up this enthusiasm throughout the concert
. . . (the Ravel) was nothing less than oceanic . . . a monumental
performance, bringing freshness and a sense of being in the moment
to a well-worn work."
". . .like being present at the Big Bang that created
the universe. The St. Petersburg Quartet has indeed stunned those
who have listened to them live or heard their recordings . . . Some
of us are willing to bet that the St. Petersburg is headed for the
same destiny as the Tokyo (String Quartet) . . . a high-wire act
of precision and expressiveness is just the start. In addition to
the cleanness and the emotion, the players have a startling sensitivity
to the qualities that turn sound into music . . . They handle dynamics,
articulation, and tempo with uncanny refinement. It is as if, for
every aspect of the music, they have expand-ed the gradations of
the spectrum. The effect is that of replacing the box of eight basic
Crayola crayons with the big set of 96."
"The 1995 Sedona Chamber Music Festival took off
with a rousing weekend of passionate music played by an equally
passionate ensemble from Russia . . . Its tour de force programming
. . . raised the festival to artistic levels formerly thought unattainable.
The ensemble's level of intensity was as remarkable as the beauty
of the music . . . perfect understanding . . . Aranovskaya and her
colleagues (had) plenty of opportunity to reveal their explosive
passion, in rhythm as well as tonal warmth . . . all three days'
audiences offered enthusiastic ovations at the conclusion of each
(From Mostly Mozart Festival, Lincoln Center) "Their
tone is dark, warm, capable of nuance and variety. Their rhythm
and pacing are supple and flexible; they take over lines and phrases
seamlessly. Yet despite their technical perfection, they are not
careful or inhibited, but vibrantly human, with a youthful exuberance
and romantic passion . . . "They played (Haydn's Quartet Op.20 No.5)
beautifully, bringing out all the subtle changes of mood, color
and expression; the final Fugue was both crystal clear and menacingly
mysterious. Shostakovich's Quartet No.7 flowed with the natural
inevitability of a conversation in one's native language. The players'
emotional involvement and projection cast a real spell. They deserve
every success, at home and abroad."
"QUARTET LIVES UP TO ITS BILLING It was
like chamber music used to be . . . beautiful sound, filled with
emotion . . . The leader is a magnetic virtuoso named Alla Aranovskaya,
who clearly could have a solo career, such is her expressive power
and fiery technique . . . conjured up luxurious musical textures
one minute and vigorous attacks the next . . . despite a very warm
night in Chautauqua Auditorium, there was even an encore . . . the
St. Petersburg Quartet intoxicated a sizable (800+) audience with
"RUSSIAN QUARTET PROVES IT-PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT"The
St. Petersburg String Quartet illustrated the wondrous results achievable
when a group of four devoted, talented players spend 10 years practicing
together daily. It was clear from their performance that they have
patiently and unselfishly honed their technical skills and investigated
musical possibilities together with ever-increasing understanding.
. . a riveting, unforgettable account of Mozart's great D minor
Quartet, K.421. Ensemble went beyond perfection; each bow stroke
was completely synchronized, each tone carefully shaped, each pause
as rhythmically apt as the sounds surrounding it . . . The players
demonstrated compelling insight . . . the interaction (in the Ravel)
was so skillful as rapid motives were passed from one instrument
to another that one might easily have remained unaware of how demanding
this colorful music is for the performers . . . one must applaud
such creative and imaginative musical thinking, especially when
the playing is so extraordinarily skillful and full of conviction."
-San Diego Times Union
"Really sensational: sparkling, colorful, refreshingly
spontaneous . . . authentically exciting . . . scintillating."
-The Reader (San Diego)
"QUARTET ENTHRALLING. The ensemble presented
Shostakovich's Quartet No.3 in F major with stunning technical virtuosity
and equally mesmerizing interpretation . . . The capacity audience
responded with a standing ovation. All that was before intermission.
Quartets by Haydn and Brahms received equally inspired readings.
The first violinist, Alla Aranovskaya, shone forth with brilliance
like the bright silver of her gown against the proper black ties
of her male colleagues. But each artist was a soloist whose virtuosity
and passion, honed within this ensemble since 1985, gave precise
witness to the Russian soul . . . Again, a standing ovation as the
concert ended. An encore was absolutely necessary, a rare event
at chamber music concerts. The ensemble played Polka, again by Shostakovich
. . . made you want to dance . . . Charleston Chamber Music Society
has presented 55 seasons of consistently high quality concerts .
. . Many, if not most, were outstanding. But few lit up the wintry
evening as brightly as did the St. Petersburg Quartet."
-Charleston (WV) Daily Mail
"RUSSIANS DELIVER SUPERB SHOSTAKOVICH. The
St. Petersburg String Quartet's performance of the lesser-known
Third Quartet of Shostakovich drew a spontaneous, sustained standing
ovation from the ample audience . . . That response in the middle
of a program has been rare. . . The SPSQ made it intensely compelling,
the finest part of a superb concert . . . The unconventi onal form
. . . let the ensemble demonstrate an exceptional narrative gift
. . . Brahms' Quartet in C minor, Op.51 No.1 had subtle, flexible
rhythm and a steely power that gave the music an icy, but not clinical,
-Charleston (WV) Gazette
"It pays to go right to the source . . . So it
was an extraordinary treat to hear the St. Petersburg String Quartet
perform an all-Russian chamber music program Saturday evening .
. . The final bars of Shostakovich's String Quartet No.3 were so
emotionally charged, you could have cut the tension in the audience
with a knife. After the final note died away, you could hear many
listeners among the several hundred in the audience let out their
breath at once . . . The delightful folk-flavored melody of the
first movement set the stage for a carefully-wrought performance
. . . the four musicians delivered a powerful, emotional climax
. . . an extraordinarily cohesive performance."
-Grand Rapids Review
"Formed only 12 years ago, the St. Petersburg String
Quartet has advanced rapidly to the upper echelons of the chamber
music world. For the large house at the Civic Auditorium Thursday
night, the reasons were obvious. . . the quartet performed a superb
program, freshening the audience's perspective of even often-heard
masterpieces . . . Thursday's concert began with a striking rendition
of the Haydn Quartet Op.20 No.4. Consistently clean in attacks and
crisp in effects, the players opened up fresh sonic possibilities
. . . Prokofiev's Quartet No.1 was performed with overflowing vitality
. . . The final work, Borodin's luscious Quartet No.2, was the highlight
of a very gratifying concert. . . The St. Petersburg Quartet played
it to such perfection that those hearing it Thursday are unlikely
to hear it performed better in their lifetimes. Icing on the cake
came with the group's spritely and delightful encore, a Shostakovich
Polka. . . The group's high technical ability, joined with remarkable
interpretive ardor, allowed them to elicit listeners' aesthetic
intellect as well as their deepest emotions."
"The St. Petersburg String Quartet has become perhaps
the most admired Russian chamber ensemble working in the West. .
. subtle, carefully mixed colors and precise gradations of dynamics.
They show an acute sense of rhythm and admirable concern for balance
and the articulation of inner voicings. . . Performances of the
Tchaikovsky Quartet No.2 and the Shostakovich Quartet No.3 were
characterized by perfectly blended tones, pinpoint accuracy and
"The St. Petersburg Quartet made its South Florida
début Sunday night at the Mainly Mozart Festival, playing Schubert,
Mozart and Beethoven with warm humanity of tone . . . There was
a breadth and intense lyricism in the St. Petersburg's performance
that . . . made me wonder whether the cooler, more objective performances
by other quartets really are correct . . . Aranovskaya's violin
led eloquently with sustained power, matched by Shukaev's dark,
ardently projected cello."
"ST. PETERSBURG QUARTET INFUSES MUSIC WITH LIFEThe
St. Petersburg String Quartet staked a plausible claim to the top
rung of the chamber music ladder . . . the Quartet plays with high
polish, perfect accord and a transparent, unusually clean and integrated
sound. But what sets this troupe apart is its capacity to get inside
the music and astonish the listener with the sheer rightness and
vividness of its interpretations . . . Not a bar passed without
a bold insight, an unexpected nuance of color, balance, tempo or
rhythm that made you think, 'Oh! So that's how it's supposed to
go!' The hallmark of the St. Petersburg is a driving, surging, throbbing,
organic sense of rhythm . . . This was music overbrimming with life."
-San Antonio Express-News
"An estimated 600 listeners, one of the largest
Musicorda audiences ever, packed Chapin Auditorium for the opening
concert of the '95 Musicorda Festival . . . Clearly etched on the
musicians' faces, buried in their every motion, was the deep-seated
connection they feel to Shostakovich's notes, ideas and musical
emotions. For them and for their listeners, the piece became personal
property, shared almost jealously, but with searing passion. Solo
passages of surpassing beauty were rendered by first violinist Alla
Aranovskaya and cellist Leonid Shukaev . . . They knew as well when
to pull the music inward, almost shielding it from view, making
us yearn to hear what we thought we heard once more."
-Union-News (Springfield, MA)
"ST. PETERSBURG OPENS MUSICORDA WITH FLAIR
The flawless precision of this quartet was awe-inspiring. They took
three curtain calls, one to a standing ovation, and then rewarded
us with a Scherzo by Borodin as an encore . . . The 'bite' of (Aranovskaya's)
attack, her consistently strong bowing, and her supremely confident
fingerwork were electrifying."
-Daily Hampshire Gazette
(From the Texas Music Festival) " . . . striking
Houston début . . . The prize-winning musicians were first-rate
. . . played with effortlessness and intimacy . . . Its blend was
refined yet relaxed . . . the interpretive style was gripping . . . the players poured
all the wrenching emotion necessary into Shostakovich's heartbreaking
music . . . (The Borodin) again was freely expressive, handsome and commanding."
"BONUS CONCERT BECOMES HIGHLIGHT OF SEASON
The St. Petersburg, one of the best string quartets performing today,
played like one person with four heads . . . they are an ensemble
of tremendous power, playing with an amazing freedom of expression
. . . such understanding and penetration into the essence of the
compositions that the complex became simple; the simple at the same
time was rendered with such depth that it became highly sophisticated
. . . in the web of sound which the musicians wove around the understandably
appreciative and excited audience, the balance and part passing
were impeccable, as if there were only one instrument speaking .
. . it was as powerful as it was elegant, sounding more like a string
orchestra . . . astoundingly multidimensional and spherical sound
and an orchestral depth of harmony . . . almost overwhelming."
"RUSSIAN QUARTET CAPTIVATES BROWNSVILLE AUDIENCE
The local audience knew quality when they heard it and saw it. Each
musician stroked his instrument like a familiar and cherished lover-gently,
yet assertively, with passion and affection, whimsy and glee . .
. The ensemble followed up with three encores, and the audience
reciprocated with three standing ovations."
-Brownsville (TX) Herald
"STRING QUARTET DESERVES KUDOS TOSSED THEIR
WAY Superb performances . . . last night, before a packed house
. . . the players held back nothing . . . Tchaikovsky's Quartet
No.3 became the masterpiece of the evening. The ensemble delivered
a mature and passionate reading . . . that lifted the four musicians-and
the audience-out of their seats."
-The Blade (Toledo)
" . . . single-minded sense of warmth and intimacy
. . . ardent lyricism. There was synchronic insistence to the driving
rhythms of Prokofiev's String Quartet No.1, but even the most aggressive
sections beckoned with soft-edged songfulness. The fifth quartet
of Haydn's Op.20 . . . seethed with a dark effervescence as players
caressed legato phrases with unhurried care. The fugue evolved with
exact balance and a natural sense of logic. Borodin's D-major String
Quartet . . . cozed with melodic sparkle . . . in the hands of this
ensemble, it surged invitingly-sure, focused and full of pastoral
-Los Angeles Times
"A near-capacity audience was treated to an exquisite
evening of music-making . . . that might easily have transpired
in a major international venue . . . The ensemble delivered spirited,
idiomatic readings of Shostakovich's Quartet No.2 and Tchaikovsky's
Quartet No.3 . . . obvious affection and conviction . . . Their
playing was characterized by bold articulations, sweeping legato
melodic lines, facile technique in rapid passages and a command
of wide-ranging dynamic levels and tempi. It was the kind of ensemble
playing that can only come from years of working together and living
with the literature being performed . . . the quartet received a
well-deserved standing ovation and obliged the house with encores
by Borodin and Shostakovich."
"RUSSIAN MUSICIANS GIVE STELLAR CONCERT
A lovely and gripping performance . . . lively, vital sound . .
. if you closed your eyes when a passage was being passed froom
one instrument to another, it was hard to tell where one player
stopped and the other started. Their playing at very soft levels
was extremely controlled, with no unwanted sounds. In the lightest
passages, in fact, it sounded as though they were using only one
or two hairs on their bows. The second movement of the Tchaikovsky,
bouncy and playful, had the quartet members tossing notes and phrases
from one to another like a hot potato."
-Daily Gazette (Schenectady)
"There is a justifiable fear that the traditions
of the venerated old timers will be lost amid a welter of styles
presented by numerous, often flashy newcomers. Regarding the preservation
of the Russian tradition represented by the Borodin String Quartet,
there seems to be no cause for alarm. Consider the St. Petersburg
String Quartet . . . Like the best of yesterday's Russian quartets,
the St. Petersburg employs long bow strokes and wide dynamic range
(the group's pianissimo is gorgeous) . . . and, as with the Borodin
String Quartet, the combination of warmth and terseness these players
bring to Shostakovich is a welcome antidote to the hyper-aggressive
treatment some of today's hot young groups find stylistically apposite."
-Los Angeles Times
"A well-balanced, creative and powerful program
. . . the quartet played with confidence and authority . . . anchored
by the commanding presence of violinist Alla Aranovskaya . . . dramatic
physical expression and a palpable emotional intensity . . . The
quartet showed splendid technique and admirable unity throughout
. . . (The encore, a Shostakovich Polka), was a comic gem."
-Orange County Register
"This decade-old ensemble sounds like one of Russia's
-San Jose Mercury News
"ST. PETERSBURG STRING QUARTET PRESENTS WORLD-CLASS
CONCERT One of the world's best musical ensembles . . . The
players' pianissimo passages were softer than one usually hears
and their bravura passages were fuller and more furious than most
. . . it was wonderful."
"The String Quartets of Tchaikovsky have never
been fully appreciated outside Russia, but this new recording by
the St. Petersburg String Quartet might help to change that situation.
The performance has the warmth that Tchaikovsky's music needs, as
well as complete technical security and a convincing sense of form
"The emotional intensity and warmer tonal tapestry
of the Russian players are well-suited to Borodin's lyrical works.
In the famous Notturno-Borodin's most indelible melody-where the
( ) group seems to be merely playing the notes, the Russians' warm
languor penetrates to the heart of Borodin's nocturnal romanticism."
" . . . among the world's very best . . . the kind
of committed and passionate music-making that's in short supply
among the groups churned out by American conservatories . . . (their
CD's) show more of the virtues we expect from a live concert than
we hear when the usual touring ensemble stops off for a visit .
. . the St. Petersburg's playing in the first installment of the
Shostakovich series shows mastery that should triumph across the
full range of the quartet repertoire."
-Willamette Week (Portland)
" . . . some of the best quartet playing to emerge
from Russia in 30 years."
"This keen young St. Petersburg ensemble displays
a genuine roster of virtues . . . the combination of ardour and
textural richness invariably holds one's attention."
" . . . these performances can hold their own with
the best of them . . . the St. Petersburg group constantly dig deep
to expose the full panoply of Tchaikovsky's expressive range."