Quartet No 2 in A major Op. 68

Composer: Dmitri Shostakovich (b. 1906 - d. 1975)
Share :


Composer: Dmitri Shostakovich (b. 1906 - d. 1975)

Performance date: 04/07/2017

Venue: Bantry Library

Composition Year: 1944

Duration: 00:37:23

Recording Engineer: Richard McCullough, RTÉ lyric fm

Instrumentation Category:String Quartet

Artists: Pavel Haas Quartet (Veronika Jarušková, Marek Zwiebel [violins], Radim Sedmidubský [viola], Peter Jarušek [cello]) - [quartet]

quartet was the last of Shostakovich’s war pieces, which began with
the famous Leningrad Symphony with Hitler’s armies at the gates, the
Eighth Symphony of 1943 and the E minor Piano Trio, which was
finished in August 1944. Shostakovich then turned as though
diabolically possessed to this Quartet. The two chamber works were
written in mourning for his friend, Ivan Sollertinsky, though the
Quartet was dedicated to his fellow composer and another loyal
friend, Vissarion Shebalin. (In those testing times loyal friends
were frighteningly scarce.) Both works were premiered at the same
concert in the Great Hall of the Leningrad Philharmonic, where
Sollertinsky had been artistic director.

was while writing this work that Shostakovich wrote to Shebalin
worrying about the lightning speed at which he composed:
shouldn’t compose as quickly as I do. Composition is a serious
business…It is exhausting, rather unpleasant, and at the end of the
day you lack any confidence in the result. But I can’t rid myself of
the bad habit.

difference from the First Quartet is staggering, the slow movement
alone is almost as long the whole of the earlier work and the mood of
sorrow and lamentation is overwhelming. The Quartet opens with the
wild howl of protest that propels the music straight into orbit, a
momentum that the strident second theme continues without any let-up
in the tension. This short and powerful exposition is repeated before
the development is begun in a deceptively restrained manner. This
seems to circle around the central drama before driving itself to a
desperate climax. The opening cry then leads back into an exhausted
recapitulation but manages to revive itself for the coda’s last wild

dramatic world of opera is conjured by the movement titles, moving
from Overture to Recitative and Romance when the first violin plays
the heroine. After Shostakovich’s catastrophic confrontation with
Stalin over
never again had the confidence to complete a full-length opera, so
his dramatic talents had to find other means of expression. The
instrumental recitative is also a reminder of Beethoven’s late
quartets and the tragic posture betrays the more Russian influence of
Tchaikovsky, but the voice in the desert is Shostakovich’s alone. The
chorale-like supporting voices become stronger after the passionate
climax at the heart of the movement while the violin’s lament
scarcely falters. The Waltz of the third movement has been called a
dance of death with its wild fluctuations of tempo and air of muted


returns to the theme and variations of the second movement of the
First Quartet but on a vastly increased scale. The theme itself is
preceded by an expansive and sonorous introduction, which is to
return to play a dramatic role near the end. The theme starts
innocuously but is gradually transformed by a progressive
acceleration of tempo into such an intense excitement, that you
forget the movement began as an Adagio. Eventually the theme returns
the dramatic intervention of the introduction and a final robust
statement of the theme.