5th quartet playing. Can Shostakovich be beautiful? Yes, it can. Without losing the drama. My first encounter with the Shostakovich string quartets was in the eighties, with the Borodin Quartet, as I've already revealed. (Everlasting experience, somewhat as mind-bending as had been Ligeti's orchestral works, Sravinsky's "Rite" and Mahler.) I was quite sceptical with the Mandelring Q's Shostakovich, considering their fame of tonal purity and homogeneous sound. But it (the quartet) have turned out to be quite remarkable also on Shostakovich (they've recorded recently the whole Mendelssohn string quartet output, too, and Janacek's quartet's, with very fine results). Few days ago one critic praised one young contemporary string quartet - a recording of Doric SQ, actually: that it pretty much blew away all the older recordings with the supreme playing and fine quartet sound. That just prompted me to study the home library for contemporary quartets. I do like St. Petersburg SQ along with a half-generation older Hagen Quartett. But it's this weekend's listening to the Mandelring Q's Shostakovich that proved to me it to be an all-around quartet, not only a fine player of romantic repertoire.