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The ECM label is known for its innovative approach. Here is the first in a new series of discs entitled Prism: each album will present a Bach Fugue and a late Beethoven Quartet which is in turn connected to a later quartet.

The Bach Fugue in E-flat BWV876 (from Book II of the Well-Tempered Clavier) is heard in Mozart’s arrangement, pure and quick. The Beethoven Quartet in E-flat Op 127, heard last, is historically the prism through which the light of Bach passes; and placing Shostakovich’s final Quartet second is daring, music which seems to preclude sound thereafter.

Parts of the Shostakovich are so blanched they hardly live; close recording allows for the pain to come through. In contrast comes the raw, dynamic energy of Beethoven’s Op 127, whose more interior passages link directly to the Shostakovich. A touch more interpretative alignment in the Beethoven would have clinched five stars.

COLIN CLARKE Read the full review on Agora Classica

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