I wish this wonderful group had a more evocative name, but the Boston-based Jupiter Qt. is making a splash, winning prizes and being invited to join the prestigious Lincoln Center Chamber Music Society. This pairing of Shostakovich's msot popular and upbeat quartet with Britten's most profound one is a total winner. To begin with, the recorded sound is first rate. String quartets are hard to capture faithfully, but here the close-up, detailed sound is full of weight and gives the music added impact.
The Jupiter Qt. favor the same energetic, fleet, incisve virtuosity in Shostakovich that one hears from the Emerson Qt., and by no means do they suffer by comparison. As with the Emersons, this ensemble doesn't go for depth as do the Borodin, Beethoven, and Shostakovich Qts., all Russian, of course. (I'm not sure anymore that many of Shostakovich's quartets actually possess lasting depth.) But what gorgeous, clean playing and real unanimity, not to mention perfect intonaiton and technical polish.
By contrast, the Britten Second Quartet, with its 20-minute Chacony inspired by the composer's reaction to the Nazi concentration camps, requires sensitivity and tragic depth from the performers. The first movement is fairly subdued compared to, say, the Amadeus Qt. reading, but the Jupiter is far more technically elegant -- the voicing of the hushed first theme is quite breathtaking. The spooky Scherzo is just as exciting, each member of the group joining in perfect unison in their tone and phrasing -- I've never heard better. As for the heartbreaking, haunting Chacony, here the jupiter add touching eloquence to their impressive gifts. I was moved from the opening bar to the very end and came away believing that this group has a huge future ahead of it. Highly recommended.