- String Quartet No. 4 in D major, Op. 83
- String Quartet No. 9 in E flat major, Op. 117
While the Dartington String Quartet as a whole and first violinist Colin Sauer in particular could play in tune more often in their 1973 coupling of Shostakovich's "Fourth" and "Ninth" string quartets, the drive, power, and dedication of their performances is more than enough to compensate. Besides, the Dartington is only really out of tune when the dynamic levels rise above fortissimo and Sauer is only consistently out of tune when playing more than two octaves above middle C. Most of the time, they're tight, tough, and right on the sweet spot. So one could perhaps think of their intonation as less a technical flaw than an interpretive choice. And the Dartington's performances are truly wonderful. It has a sure feel for Shostakovich's astringent harmonic idiom and a persuasive way with his anguished themes and forms. The "Fourth" is superbly argued and intensely dramatic, while the "Ninth" is marvelously shaped and hauntingly melodic. So if one can redefine out of tune as harsh and edgy, this disc will be a pure pleasure, especially as captured in Amon Ra's amazingly transparent but still warmly atmospheric stereo sound.