The OCL new record, dedicated to Shostakovich’s Chamber Symphonies op. 73a et 83a, has just been released at Fuga Libera (Outhere Music). It displays arranged versions of the String Quartets n°3 et n°4 by Rudolf Barshai, one of the best violists in his time, and a friend of Shostakovich. Those arrangements for chamber orchestra offer a completely diferent vision of the original works and were praised by Shostakovich himself, who said about one of them that it “sounded better than the original”. In addition to the two pieces, Joshua Weilerstein talks about the works in two bonus tracks.
A MORAL VICTORY
” Shostakovich’s music has always been bound together with the story of his life in Soviet Russia. His two denunciations, the loss of so many of his friends, and the oppression he and his countrymen lived under have colored every assessment of his music. There are profoundly moving stories to tell about the pieces on this recording,. (…)
These pieces were intimate ones for Shostakovich, not necessarily designed to be heard by a large audience, and Rudolf Barshai’s arrangements of the quartets for a much larger ensemble nevertheless find a way to remain deeply intimate and personal. Barshai’s arrangements constantly thread the needle in this regard, giving the quartets a new size and scope while also remaining conscious of the context in which the quartets were written. (…)
All in all, I think that Shostakovich would have considered it a moral victory that these pieces were recorded at all, let alone as an orchestral arrangement. They are powerful works of protest, at the time private, and now public. In 2020, at a time of rising anti-Semitism and ethno-nationalism across the world, they can serve as a reminder of Shostakovich’s courage in even committing these notes to paper.”