This is a recording that, as far as I know, has never existed as a CD — a Supraphon LP from 1963, by the great Smetana Quartet in their prime, of Prokofiev’s first and Shostakovich’s third string quartets. I bought this as a student so very long ago, when Supraphon was one of the few sources of cheap classical LPs; and I remember being absolutely gripped by this music (then quite new to me) and the performances (I had nothing to compare them with, but to my innocent ear they seemed totally compelling). I do now regret having had an over enthusiastic clear-out of LPs years ago once I’d largely moved to CDs, and I foolishly gave away my no doubt rather battered copy … So if I want to recreate something like the experience of listening to this once much-loved disk, as I’ve found myself doing this week, what to do?
The recording of the Prokofiev is quite easy to choose — for there’s a rightly award-winning CD by that great successor of the Smetana Quartet, mentored by their violist Milan Škampa, the Pavel Haas Quartet. But the Shostakovich is much more difficult — but I think I settle for the Fitzwilliam Quartet’s performance from among the classic recordings, or the Mandelring Quartet from among more recent cycles.
But it would be rather wonderful if Supraphon re-released this and more of the Smetana Quartet’s classic recordings.