THE AMERICAN STRING PROJECT
LIVE 2008 - BRAHMS, DVORAK & SHOSTAKOVICH
Johannes Brahms, Antonin Dvorak, Dmitri Shostakovich
THE AMERICAN STRING PROJECT
Barry Lieberman & Maria Larionoff, Artistic Directors
Arrangements for String Orchestra by Barry Lieberman
"Groups without a conductor vary considerably in quality, just as they do when led by a maestro…the American String Project does very, very well.
Other hands (Rudolph Barshai's among them) have expanded some of the Shostakovich string quartets into chamber symphonies, so my hopes for the Shostakovich-Lieberman String Quartet #4 began pretty high, and the realization exceeded them…With the transcription, we get, in effect, a different work, less intimate than the quartet, but still relatively modest – an Angst-filled serenade. Like Barber's various arrangements of the adagio movement of his string quartet, Lieberman's Shostakovich exists as a satellite of the original, provoking a different response, valid in its own right.
[In the Brahms] I must also point out Lieberman's brilliant scoring of the final movement – an especially canny opposition of solos against the mass.
The Dvořák movement, an encore, is just plain lovely. It sounds bone-simple, but its nine minutes must result from the composer's considerable art, since nobody brainlessly sings their head off so beautifully and so to the point for that long.… the transcription works as well as the original, but to different effect. Here, the strings just hug you, like a nice warm blanket.
You do sense that any one of these players could assume with credit a soloist or leader role. Overall, a disc that will give you many evenings of pleasure"
Steve Schwartz, ClassicalNet - January 2012
"The American String Project displays a warm, lustrous corporate sonority with evenly blended textures and gleaming technical facility. [The Shostakovich] works surprisingly well in the deft arrangement by Barry Lieberman. While the 15-player ensemble bestows a richer, more Romantic profile, the music-making never turns soupy... an admirable memento of an enterprising festival and worth considering for the compelling Shostakovich performance."
Lawrence Johnson, Gramophone - October 2009
"[The Dvorak is] a gorgeous, goose-pimple inducing encore; the orchestra achieves a stunning weightlessness of line. Not to be maudlin, but my eyes were not entirely dry by the end of this. The sound is quite good, and the microphone placing is just right."
Estep, American Record Guide - September / October 2009
"[Shostakovich's] Quartet No.4 in string orchestra guise certainly has weight and feeling... Brahms is the big success, uncannily recalling the Fourth Symphony and later the Third. Dvorak breathes easily and comes across like some lost movement of his Serenade. Recorded live, the Project plays with the unmistakable infectious radiance of musicians enjoying themselves."
"PERFORMANCE * * * * * / RECORDING * * * *
BBC Music Magazine - August 2009
"The American String Project...imbue their repertoire with an inner dynamism. Made exclusively from live recordings with minimal editing, the CD is a beautiful example of uniquely capable artistry... [In Shostakovich’s String Quartet No. 4] the characteristic playfulness and emotionally mercurial nature of Shostakovich’s writing is masterfully captured in Lieberman’s arrangement, executed with charm and sophistication by the chamber orchestra. Despite the rife aural familiarity of the original quartet texture, the arrangement contributes greatly to the effect of the harmonies and musical impetus without detracting in any way from Shostakovich’s artistic vision. In the Andantino, Maria Larionoff plays the solo line with a sound that is intensely expressive and supple, confidently soaring into the emotional heights the part demands. With their combined expertise, the musicians that make up the section are incredibly sensitive and versatile in their support and interweaving of the sonic texture into an elaborately conceived tableau. TASP masterfully presents the famously complex and suspenseful final Allegretto movement. It is especially apparent that the musicians are bringing their own experiences in quartets to the nuanced and intricately expressive interpretation the aggregate chamber group makes manifest...
Brahms’ String Quartet No. 2 [is] presented with special care and pride, as the composer is a particular favorite of Lieberman’s... Within the first 5 minutes of the opening Allegro non troppo, the listener’s aural faculties have lost sense of the chamber orchestra and conceive of a full symphonic string section. TASP can indeed boast a roster of unparalleled caliber, engendering a passion whose core remains steady amidst a maelstrom of artistic intensity. The entire quartet arrangement is remarkable, so faithful to the source material that Brahms would have no doubt endorsed it with a mildly chiding internal shame that he didn’t think of it first.
Antonín Dvor'ák’s String Quartet No.9...seems fashioned to transport its audience to the composer’s mother countryside as easily as it can turn the mirror inward to the most interior corner of the human psyche. It is a beautiful symbiosis of the two that TASP manages to convey in its encore of this deliciously subtle and expressive piece."
Classical Voice of New England - June 2009
"The American String Project…have outdone themselves in 2008…What [Lieberman and Larionoff] do to amplify and extent the harmonic possibilities of the string quartets that are transcribed for a 15-member ensemble, is nothing short of sensational."
Atlanta Audio Society - February 2009
THE AMERICAN STRING PROJECT
is a unique, conductorless string orchestra whose members gather and perform during one week every year in Seattle. The ensemble is made up of some of the finest artists from all over the United States. We perform almost exclusively chamber music arranged for fifteen players. Our repertoire extends from Bach to Bartók and beyond, and we have received unanimous acclaim from local reviewers as well as international publications, including Fanfare and Gramophone.
On this disc we present the Quartet No.2 in A minor by Brahms and the Quartet No.4 in D major by Shostakovich. Brahms has long been a favorite composer of mine, and the A minor quartet is especially well suited to expansion into a larger string format. It is led in this performance by Jorja Fleezanis, concertmaster of the Minnesota Orchestra.
Over the past seven seasons, the Project has performed four of the fifteen Shostakovich quartets, and we intend to perform the remaining eleven over the course of the next decade. This performance of the fourth quartet is led by Maria Larionoff, concertmaster of the Seattle Symphony.
As an encore we include the Adagio movement from Dvorák’s D minor quartet, Op.34. For me, this is the single most beautiful slow movement of any work I know.
String Quartet No.2 in A minor, Op.51
String Quartet No. 4 in D major, Op.83
String Quartet No.9 in D minor, Op.34 - Adagio