On 25th October, Supraphon will be releasing the album by the
internationally renowned ensemble Pavel Haas Quartet featuring
Shostakovich's String Quartets Nos. 2, 7, 8. On that occasion the Pavel Haas
Quartet talked to us about their new album as well as about their plans for the
What was the impulse for your recording Shostakovich’s quartets?
Are his quartets part of the staple repertoire worldwide?
Peter Jarůšek: Shostakovich’s quartets are among the repertoire staples
in this genre. He was a composer of global calibre, who transcended the borders
of his own country from the very beginning.
Marek Zwiebel: We deem Shostakovich to be a seminal 20th-century composer whose
music boldly expressed human nature, conveying a significant message.
When scrutinising several Shostakovich symphonies, many compelling,
often weighty, stories formed their background. What stories are concealed in
Marek Zwiebel: Shostakovich began writing quartets later than symphonies. He
dedicated his symphonies to the whole Russian people, which is quite evident
from the music. I am of the opinion that the Russian nation identified
themselves with his works. On the other hand, the quartets were his intimate
Veronika Jarůšková: Perhaps that is why when playing
Shostakovich’s quartets we feel very close to him as a composer and human
being, as though we were engaged in a conversation.
Why did you choose quartets 2, 7 and 8 in particular?
Veronika Jarůšková: I was the first from our ensemble to play the seventh
quartet – at master classes with Valentin Berlinsky, the cellist of the
Borodin Quartet, who studied the piece with Shostakovich himself. The eighth
quartet is like a memorial to Shostakovich, an iconic work that has accompanied
us since the formation of our ensemble. The second quartet is a monumental
piece, a “quartet symphony”, whose second part I personally perceive as
being a prayer for the entire humankind, with the final “amen”.
Marek Zwiebel: The quartets nicely supplement each other. We should bear in mind
that they starkly differ. The seventh and eighth were written in the 1960s, the
second was composed in the 1940s, during the second world war.
Which other composers have you combined with Shostakovich at
Peter Jarůšek: With regard to the forcibility of the message and distinct
musical idiom, we have always had to give it a lot of thought. When it comes to
Shostakovich’s second quartet, we have come to the conclusion that it must
be performed in the second half of concerts – what is more, we agreed that it
is not appropriate to add anything, as everything has been said, and it would
seem that the audience feel the same.
What style of recording do you like? How do you work when
Peter Jarůšek: First and foremost, I would like to say that we fully rely on
our now established and faithful recording team, made up of the recording
director Jiří Gemrot and the sound engineer Karel Soukeník. In a way, we are
actually “in their hands”.
Will you be playing the works featured on your new album at concerts
in the foreseeable future?
Veronika Jarůšková: The majority of our concerts contained these Shostakovich
works prior to our embarking upon the recording – accordingly, this phase is
behind us. In a certain sense, we have come to an end of a period in our
history. Even though we will perform Shostakovich’s quartets at a few
concerts, we will, as is usually the case, rather focus on a new repertoire,
instead of looking back.
Could you reveal the repertoire you have pursued in the current
Marek Zwiebel: Since the previous season, we have been intensely exploring the
complete quartets of Bohuslav Martinů, whose works we will perform next season
at Wigmore Hall in London. Furthermore, we have concentrated on Bartók,
Beethoven and Tchaikovsky. And we really look forward to working again with the
violist Pavel Nikl and the cellist Danjulo Ishizaka.
What countries and cities will you visit over the next few
Peter Jarůšek: We launched our season in Zurich, and we are scheduled to visit
the Benelux countries, London and Stockholm. We will also make our debut in
Israel, where we will give three concerts. Our next destination will be Poland,
and we will also perform in the Czech Republic – at the Janáček Brno
festival and within the Bohuslav Martinů Institute Benefit Concert in Prague.
Before the year is out, we will travel to Rome and Milan.
Could you say what type of album would you like to record next with
Peter Jarůšek: We would like to link up to our recent CD of
Dvořák’s quintets we made with Boris Giltburg and Pavel Nikl. Our intention
is to get together with them again and record Johannes Brahms’s quintets.