SHOSTAKOVICH String Quartet No 2. Piano Quintet
This is the second joint release from Marc-André Hamelin and the Takács Quartet. Last time it was in Schumann’s Quintet (11/09); that by Shostakovich is a rather different proposition, though of course the pianist has made an outstanding recording of the concertos (1/04).
Hamelin is suitably edgy in the opening piano soliloquy, suggesting an underlying angst which is more subtly rendered by Argerich yet higher in voltage than the rival Hyperion recording led by pianist Igor Uryash. As the work unfolds, you’re very aware that the relationship between pianist and string quartet is one of dialogue, whereas in the Argerich EMI version it’s more of a power struggle between her and cellist Mischa Maisky, whose vibrato is as lavish as ever. The fugal second movement is full of rich colours in the hands of Argerich et al but is even more eloquently wrought by the strings of the Takács, while in the Scherzo the earlier Hyperion version sounds somewhat loose-limbed compared to the energy here, Hamelin making light of the devilish passagework. The effect is more refined than in Argerich’s account, though I find the brash energy of the latter electrifying. It’s perhaps in the Intermezzo that the new disc scores most highly, exquisitely withdrawn, while in the finale the ambiguity of mood is well captured, with its combination of tension and insouciance.
Compared to the Emerson’s Award-winning set, the Takács find more to smile about in the Second Quartet, introducing a hint of playfulness into the opening. Throughout they bring great clarity and a subtle range of colour but I wanted something more dolorous in the slow movement, where the Emersons (and even more so the Borodins) are spine-tingling. And in the third-movement Waltz, the Takács don’t quite attain the hint of hysteria of the finest groups, though again the balance is unfailingly finely considered, and they’re beautifully recorded. There’s a disconcerting moment, however, at 0'45" in the final track, where the cello is distinctly out of tune.