String Quartets 2 & 4
Dmitri Shostakovich

String Quartets 2 & 4

Amsterdam Sinfonietta / Candida Thompson

CCS 26007 - 0723385260073

Information GreatBrittain Germany

String quartet nr. 2 in A On 2 September 1944, Shostakovich wrote the last note of his second string quartet in a country house near Ivanovo. Two months later, the Beethoven-quartet played the première. The second string quartet was created after the famous second piano trio and was written at a terrific pace. Shostakovich dedicated this work to his good friend Vissarion Shebalin, the director of the Moscow Conservatory at that time. Like his great example Beethoven, Shostakovich did not publish his first string quartet until he was thirty. In the preceding years, he thoroughly studied the string quartets by Beethoven, Mozart and Haydn. According to his students, he could effortlessly quote from this classic literature. The piece opens with an energetic Ouverture that in its form and counterpoint has been entirely fashioned after the forementioned classic examples. This quartet is primarily exceptional because of the longest and slow movement of the piece. The movement consists of a Romance enclosed by two recitatives. These long and grievous episodes of the solo violin in recitative form are accompanied by static, low chords. One can directly associate this movement with sacred music, in which the recitative technique is so common. In the Waltz, a soft legato theme develops, first in the celli and later in the violins, over a waltz pattern to a turbulent percussion part full of changes of pace. The movement concludes in pianissimo with the return to a clear three-four time in which the altos ‘turn off the light’. The last movement, Theme with variations, starts from an adagio. Per variation, both the tempo and the drama increase. The theme ultimately simmers down in an adagio in E flat. String quartet nr. 4 in D In 1949 Shostakovich finished his fourth string quartet, although the première of this piece was not heard until 1953. In the years after the war the government got increasingly involved in the cultural world. The Central Committee published a resolution in which clear guidelines for modern art were formulated. As a result of this, the composers’ union of Moscow organized a conference. At this gathering, Shostakovich was forced to read a speech in which he distanced himself from his oeuvre. Chrennikov, the new chairman of the composers’ union branded Shostakovich as a ‘formalist’ and a ‘cosmopolitan’. Shortly afterwards, Shostakovich even had to discontinue his work at the Conservatories of Moscow and Leningrad. Shostakovich withdrew from muscial life. Besides film music he wrote a song cycle, From Jewish folk poetry and his fourth string quartet. In Russia there was such a strong climate of antisemitism that prior to the première of his song cycle he was deluged with threatening letters. His fourth string quartet too bears a strong Jewish character that is reminiscent of his famous second piano trio, for which he was awarded the Stalin prize. Shostakovich felt a lifelong commitment to the Jewish people and has always strongly condemned antisemitism. The fourth quartet has a melancholic and sober character. Throughout the entire opening movement a pedal tone is audible, with above it strikingly varying fifths and fourths, resulting in the movement’s serene atmosphere. In the next movement, a warm and melodic theme dominates in the first violin part. At the end of this movement, the first violin joins the other parts in a number of still choral episodes that, meandering, dissolve into nothingness. Only in the Allegretto and the final movement following without a pause, the Jewish character of the string quartet truly manifests itself. The scale material and the rhythmic accents bare witness to that. In this dramatic movement, the quartet reaches the highest degree of dissonance. The movement concludes with a soft choral and pizzicati that end in the key of D major. Willem de Bordes Translation: Eline Haks

  • 1
    String Quartet No. 4 In D Major, Op. 83
    I. Allegretto
  • 2
    String Quartet No. 4 In D Major, Op. 83
    II. Andantino
  • 3
    String Quartet No. 4 In D Major, Op. 83
    III. Allegretto
  • 4
    String Quartet No. 4 In D Major, Op. 83
    IV. Allegretto
  • 5
    String Quartet No. 2 In a Major, Op. 68
    I. Overture (Moderato Con Moto)
  • 6
    String Quartet No. 2 In a Major, Op. 68
    II. Recitative and Romance (Adagio)
  • 7
    String Quartet No. 2 In a Major, Op. 68
    III. Waltz (Allegro)
  • 8
    String Quartet No. 2 In a Major, Op. 68
    IV. Theme With Variations (Adagio)