The Rubin Quartet, named after the ruby, “a stone which opens hearts and has inexhaustible energy”, bursts onto the chamber music scene with a debut CD boasting repertoire as impressive as its realisation. Although young in years, the quartet’s members have enough guts, graciousness and competition glory – including prizes at Evian, Braunschweig and Bubenreuth – to convince the listener that their group is here to stay.
The Quartet’s foray into the abstract tonal world of the 20th century opens new vistas of colour, pathos and occasional poetry. The prestissimo, con sordino movement from the off-performed Bartok Quartet no.4, for example, takes on a diabolic quality, and the Non troppo lento captures the spirit of night music with cellist Ulrike Zavelberg’s solo being of exceptional quality, while rhythmic tension intrinsic to Bartok oeuvre comes to the fore in tight, eerie reading of the Allegretto pizzicato movement.
Ethereal sound centres in Sofia Gubaidulina’s Quartet no.2 are secured with utmost care, providing a wondrous contrast to the folkloric marvels of Stravinsky’s Three Pieces. But it is in Shostakovich’s String Quartet no.8, a work fraught with angst and pathos, that the Rubin Quartet reaches into an emotional profundity far beyond its years.
From the first haunting evocation of Shostakovich’s signature leitmotif to the last pianissimo recurrence in the closing phrase, the group clears a musical path with a well defined, structural identity at its core.
The recording is wonderfully balanced, allowing all four players full freedom of dynamic expression.