Dvorak's 'American Quartet' Via St. Petersburg

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Just the Music

The St. Petersburg String Quartet at the studios of WGBH Radio in Boston.

Alla Aranovskaya and Boris Vayner, violins

Alla Krolevich, viola

Leonid Shukayev, cello

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The members of the St. Petersburg String Quartet

The St. Petersburg String Quartet played up the intimate side of Dvorak's "American" Quartet at the WGBH studios in Boston. Courtesy of the artists hide caption

toggle caption Courtesy of the artists

The St. Petersburg String Quartet is one of many great chamber groups to flee Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union. The quartet's members now live in the U.S., and from 1997 to 2003, they served as Quartet-in-Residence at Oberlin Conservatory in Ohio.

We thought that nothing could be worse than Soviet-era artistic repression, right? Well, when the group joined me in the WGBH studio, violinist Alla Aranovskaya explained that the new era has its own significant problems. There might be more artistic freedom now, but far less funding to support musicians and performing institutions.

Still, the St. Petersburg String Quartet returns to its home city each year to play concerts and make records. I was delighted to invite the group into the studio to hear its intimate, deeply felt performance of one of the greatest string quartets: Antonin Dvorak's Quartet in F major, the "American" Quartet.

More About the St. Petersburg String Quartet

Cellist Leonid Shukayev points out that his string quartet is old enough to have gone through a name change. The group began its life as the Leningrad String Quartet, getting its start at the Leningrad conservatory in the Soviet Union. But after the breakup of the U.S.S.R., the city of Leningrad reverted to its former name, and the group followed suit, renaming itself the St. Petersburg String Quartet.

The group formed in the mid-1980s, and quickly won top prizes at string-quartet competitions in the Soviet Union, Australia, Italy, and Japan. The St. Petersburg players have a soft spot for music from their homeland. They've recorded most of the well-known Russian string-quartet literature for the Hyperion, Sony, Delos, and Marquis labels.

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