Magazine article Gramophone

Laks: Shostakovich: Ullmann: 'Voices of Defiance'

Magazine article Gramophone

Laks: Shostakovich: Ullmann: 'Voices of Defiance'

Article excerpt

Laks * Shostakovich * Ullmann 'Voices of Defiance' Laks String Quartet No 3 Shostakovich String Quartet No 2, Op 68 Ullmann String Quartet No 3, Op 46 Dover Quartet Cedille (F) CDR90000173 (73' * DDD)

With extremism once more an ever-present fact of life, the timing of this disc, featuring three string quartets protesting Europe's previous great engagement with fascism, is acutely relevant. Viktor Ullmann's Third, written just before boarding the train from Terezin to Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1943, contains a fiery fugue on a 12-note subject (he had attended Schoenberg's lectures and studied with Zemlinsky, so this was no accident). Szymon Laks, who survived 30 months in Auschwitz, based his Third (1945) on Polish folk songs, banned under the Nazis. Both works are exploratory, Ullmann's descending into the abyss, Laks clambering wounded out of it, and make an extraordinarily moving pair.

This is not the first appearance of Shostakovich's Second (1944)--the largest and finest quartet here--on this label, nor in a context of contemporaneous music. The Pacifica Quartet recorded it in their 'Soviet Experience' cycle, received with muted enthusiasm in these pages. …

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