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Ravel & Shostakovich for strings - Scottish Ensemble - BBC Music Magazine

01 July 2003
BBC Music Magazine
Christopher Dingle
4 Stars

This is a rewarding musical experience - a fact worth mentioning at the outset, for arrangements of established works tend to generate a sceptical cry of 'why?' before attempting to answer the more fundamental question of whether the resulting music is meaningful. When the composer of the original is as punctilious an arbiter of instrumental texture as Ravel, then eyebrows are likely to travel north in a fit of perplexity. Nevertheless, although this is most definitely not what Ravel had in mind, with the slow movement having a rounded warmth rather than a precarious calm, it is still effective and, in the pizzicato passages of the second movement, tremendous fun.

Shostakovich was hardly a slouch when it came to orchestration, but his music does not have the same fundamental emphasis on nuances of colour as Ravel's. The punctuated tune of the Allegretto furioso of the Tenth Quartet always sounded as if it could have been a passage from one of the symphonies so that the imaginative leap in the arrangement for string ensemble is not so very great. Inevitably some of the fluidity that a quartet finds in this music is lost, but the Scottish Ensemble is thoroughly committed and convincing throughout.

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