Tuesday, May 22, 2012

recently ~~ the new Penguin Guide ~~ Shostakovich's quartets

I'm still here and will check in from time to time to send a little postcard to the blogosphere. As recently posted, I'm unable to post from my main computer due to Blogger's latest upgrade. Meanwhile, the blog continues to serve as a portal to music and arts resources local and beyond. I was delighted to find the reincarnation of the old Penguin Guide to Classical Music Recordings -- the new Penguin Guide to the 1000 Finest Classical Recordings (or something like that). I had been buying the annual guide since the editors were covering vinyl LP's and tape cassettes, and I prefer the layout of the book to the Gramophone's own rather dense and busy although very comprehensive annual volume. The new Penguin has been tailored to a slimmer volume covering what the editors consider the very best recordings. Both artists and composers are alphabetized in the same section. Introductory material includes overviews of phases in the history of recording technology and history of opera by country and period. Perhaps the Penguin will guide me to the best set of recordings of Shostakovich's string quartets. It was not lost on me that the Pacifica Quartet played something other than the composer's 8th Quartet at a recent Candlelight Concerts performance here in Columbia, Maryland. They played the 9th instead. I think we almost always, if not always, get the 8th whenever Shostakovich is represented in a string quartet recital, and his entire cycle in this genre numbers 15 quartets. Writers on music hold that these quartets are the greatest since Beethoven's and the greatest of string quartets composed in the 20th century.