The Lafayette String Quartet present all 15 Shostakovich String Quartets
As graduate students at Indiana University, members of the LSQ were coached by Dubinsky, founder of the famed Borodin Quartet. With a reputation as one of the world’s most exceptional chamber groups, the Borodin is credited with introducing Western audiences to the quartets of Shostakovich, the composer with whom the ensemble was most closely identified. The Borodin Quartet had the unique opportunity to work directly with Shostakovich. Dubinsky was a member of The Borodin Quartet for over 30 years with whom he performed 13 of the 15 Shostakovich quartets before emigrating to the west in 1976.
The LSQ credits Dubinsky as its “musical father” who continued to support and encourage them until his death in 1997. Dubinsky introduced the LSQ to Shostakovich’s 3rd and 8th quartets as well as his Piano Quintet, which they performed with their mentor and his wife, pianist Luba Edlina Dubinsky, in a Russian Music Festival New York. “Studying with Dubinsky transformed the way we play Shostakovich,” says LSQ violist Joanna Hood. “His style of teaching — his use of the bow, concept of sound, the way the quartet works together — came from a tradition passed on from his previous generation,” recalls Hood. She says the techniques became so ingrained in them that they are now automatic.
In his honour, the Quartet continues to pass on what they’ve absorbed through Dubinsky’s intense and rigorous coaching. “We have a unique contribution to these quartets,” says Hood. “It’s important to us that we pass this down to our students and share it with our audiences.”
While a massive undertaking for the performers as well as a significant commitment for any listener, “hearing all of the quartets in the order they were composed is a great way to experience Shostakovich’s journey,” remarks Hood. Shostakovich’s cycle of quartets documents the artist’s life during an important period of history, and spans his compositional career from the late 1930s until his death in 1975. His creative life was profoundly influenced by Soviet communism and the Cold War, two factors that dictated and regulated intellectual freedom in Russia. Shostakovich was denounced twice before joining the Communist Party in 1960. It is around this time that his health began to deteriorate and a preoccupation with his own mortality began to permeate his work. “There is a noticeable optimism in his earlier quartets but an element of sadness and stoicism throughout the cycle,” describes Hood.
For a detailed schedule of concerts and pre-concert talks, visit the Lafayette String Quartet’s website. The LSQ will also perform the complete cycle in April at the Music Room in Kitchener-Waterloo and are bringing select quartets to schools on the mainland and in Seattle.
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