Holly Harris
Winnipeg Free Press, Canada
May 2015

One of Canada's most prolific recording artists, acclaimed Montreal-born pianist Marc-André Hamelin joins forces with Hungary's Takács Quartet in this new release offering two of Shostakovich's chamber works.

Piano Quintet, composed for the Beethoven Quartet in 1940 and notably premièred by the composer at the keyboard, is one of Shostakovich's most popular small-ensemble pieces. Hamelin's muscular opening solo immediately asserts and maintains his presence in first movement, Prelude: Lento. The quintet holds back during the more suppressed Fugue: Adagio, while the Scherzo is a rollicking tumble, counterbalanced by neo-baroque aria Intermezzo. The Finale: Allegretto shows this tightly knit ensemble at its best where each player—and especially Hamelin—sensitively respond to each other as one part of a much greater whole.

Also included is the composer's String Quartet No 2 in A major, Op 68. The now Boulder, Colo.-based quartet infuses its opening movement, Overture: Moderato con moto, with the vivacity of a village folk dance before the plaintive Recitative and Romance, which also features first violin Edward Dusinberre's expressive solo. Karoly Schranz (second violin), Geraldine Walthier (viola) and Andras Fejer (cello) join the musical conversation as sympathetic string compatriots. The muted Waltz showcases the foursome's clean playing as they fly through its anxiety-riddled textures, as well as during finale Theme and Variations, ultimately recalling the work's more expansive opening movement.

Winnipeg Free Press, Canada