- String Quartet No. 1 in A minor, Op. 33/1
- String Quartet No. 2 in C minor, Op. 33/2
- String Quartet No. 3 in D minor, Op. 33/3
As stock in Bartók's string quartets dropped in the West, stock in Shostakovich's string quartets rose. But increasing interest in the Soviet composer's 15 quartets failed to spark a similar interest in the 13 quartets by fellow Soviet composer Nikolay Myaskovsky. In the digital age, there has so far been only one recording of the complete cycle, the Taneyev Quartet's from the early '80s. Previously released in the West by Russian Disc in the '90s in diverse couplings, the Taneyev's recordings are reissued here by Northern Flowers in much more sensible chronological order. Thus the first volume contains the composer's first three published string quartets of his Opus 33 set from 1930 (the fourth and final quartet from Opus 33 will presumably appear as the opening work of the second volume). Each of the three works is distinctly different in form but conspicuously the same in content. The "First" in A minor is a massive four-movement work of unrelenting gloom. The "Second" in C minor is a more compact but no less disconsolate work. The Third, actually a rewritten version of a quartet from 1911, is in two huge movements, a grimly monumental Allegro non troppo malinconico followed by a bleakly desolate Tema e variazioni. Late-romantic in gesture and harmonic language, all three works show Myaskovsky's compositional mastery along with his obsession with darkness, despair, and death. The performances sound like more than another gig for the Taneyev. There's real grit in the group's tone and honest emotion in its intensity. The Soviet-era stereo recording is rough at climaxes but cleaner than one might have guessed considering the source. While not for everyone, Myaskovsky's quartets may appeal to listeners looking for a middle ground between the pessimism of Rachmaninov and the nihilism of Shostakovich.