Classical albums

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EMERSON QUARTET | Complete Shostakovich Quartets (DG) Shostakovich's quartets are one of the towering (or should that be tottering?) edifices of 20th-century music. No modern works, not even the same composer's symphonies, have generated such a tangled web of verbal interpretation: are they a private cleansing of the soul, an encrypted barb aimed at the heart of Soviet power, a sentimental retreat? All three and more, no doubt. The Emersons, in London with their Shostakovich this week (see Classical Choice, page 8), favour cool empathy over exaggerated aggression, but these suave performances generate a cumulative intensity that reiterates Shostakovich's power to engage and enrage in equal measure. NICK KIMBERLEY

WOLFGANG HOLZMAIR | An die ferne Geliebte (Philips) In a world full of fine baritones, you'd be pushed to find one with a voice more warmly enveloping than Wolfgang Holzmair's. If recording removes some of the startling immediacy of his live performances, this is nevertheless a moving collection of songs by Beethoven, Mozart and Haydn. None of the three was first and foremost a song composer, yet Holzmair has an easeful charm that lends even the most skittish piece something close to profundity without ever sounding overwrought. His usual accompanist Imogen Cooper is the soul of tact, their partnership encompassing soaring lyricism and rough humour with equal grace. NK