(Cedille Records has recently released the Pacifica Quartet’s recordings of the complete quartets of Shostakovich as a box set. Below is a reprint of Edward Reichel’s review of the four discs that first appeared in Reichel Recommends in March 2014.)

PACIFICA QUARTET; The Soviet Experience: String Quartets by Dmitri Shostakovich and His Contemporaries, vols. 1-4 (Cedille Records) ****

Since its founding 20 years ago, the Pacifica Quartet has become one of today’s top string quartets. The group has attained this exalted position because of its amazing artistry, impeccable technique and polished and sophisticated interpretations. Many of its performances have raised the bar on quartet playing.

And with its recently finished four volume set of the complete Shostakovich quartets the foursome has set a high standard for this composer’s quartets. Others have recorded all 15 of the quartets, but in terms of interpretation and execution the Pacifica does it better. Listening to their insightful and sensitive performances on these albums one feels that many of these works were written with the Pacifica in mind. It doesn’t get any better than this.

All of the performances on this set are memorable, but several stand out.

Among the exceptional readings of these quartets is the Seventh in F sharp minor. The kaleidoscopic character of the work is given a seamless treatment by the Pacifica that brings a nicely balanced cohesiveness to the work as a whole.

The Eighth in C minor is also given a stunning reading. The Eighth is one of Shostakovich’s best known and most frequently played quartets. It’s a tragic work with powerful emotions. The Pacifica gives a heartfelt and poignant account that underscores the pathos of the work.

Shostakovich’s final quartet, written in the year before his death in 1975, is filled with searing emotions and pain. Its tragedy is on a higher level than that encountered in the Eighth, and the Pacifica acknowledges that with its stunning reading that almost lets the listener feel the pain that Shostakovich expresses. This is perhaps the best performance in this set.

Unlike other complete cycles, the Pacifica also includes works by some of Shostakovich’s contemporaries, including Alfred Schnittke and Sergei Prokofiev. Including them in this collection puts their music, as well as Shostakovich’s, in a new and better perspective.

This set is a definite must have for any lover of chamber music.


AUBREE OLIVERSON, VIOLIN, STEPHEN OLIVERSON, PIANO; A Moon Light Christmas with Bach (Moon Light Productions) ****

Sixteen-year-old Aubree Oliverson is a violinist with immense talent. Despite her youth, the Utah-born artist already has accumulated quite a résumé: she’s soloed with a number of ensembles around the country, including the Utah Symphony, and she’s appeared twice on the nationally recognized radio show From the Top.

And now Oliverson has released her first Christmas CD, A Moon Light Christmas with Bach, a thoughtful collection of holiday favorites and arrangements. But she’s taken it one step further – interspersed between the holiday gems is J.S. Bach’s Partita No. 2, for solo violin.

Oliverson gives a stellar performance of the partita; her interpretation is well executed and dynamic, yet also wonderfully expressive and lyrical. The closing Chaconne, a demanding piece for any concert artist, is given a magnificent treatment in her young hands. She is without question a young violinist ready to make a huge name for herself.

One might be prone to think that mixing some eclectic Bach with Christmas music might not be the best blend, but Oliverson manages the impossible – making each track, whether it’s the opening “The First Noël” or the Schubert/Gounod “Ave Maria” sound as impressive as any movement from the Bach partita.

Oliverson is accompanied at the piano by her father, Stephen Oliverson. The two make an exceptional musical team; they are equal partners and play wonderfully off each other.

Also joining the pair on a number of tracks are Aubree Oliverson’s younger siblings, Andrew and Lily.

A Moon Light Christmas with Bach is a charming album and a delightful addition to anyone’s holiday music collection.