This being my first actual post I should clear something up, Shostakovich is my favorite. That being said, I am disapointed in myself for not knowing more of his chamber music. I just randomly chose to listen to his 10th String Quartet, because I hadn’t ever really listened to it. Man, I was missing out. I never really associated DSCH with wierd sounds, and effects, but after listening to these two quartets, I found out I was wrong. The quartet that gets all the glory is the 8th, and with good reason. It was basically his suicide note, for the suicide he never committed. Therefore, it is pretty heavy stuff. But thank god he never did commit suicide because then we’d be without a lot of good music.
The 9th was dedicated to his third wife (One day I’ll talk about how much of a lady’s man Dmitri was), and was one of the few works he ever revised. He actually destroyed the first version. I hate it when composers destroy their stuff. Brahms would propably have twice as many opus numbers if he didn’t burn his stuff, but whatever. This was before John Cage said “Save everything”, so perhaps it’s not Brahms’ fault. Anyways, Shostakovich’s 9th Quartet, like the 8th, is in 5 movements, all played without break. It’s crazy stuff, but we come to expect that from DSCH. Bleak, dark, overall awesome.
The 10th is in 4 movements. Shostakovich decided to give the players a break in this one, so all the movements aren’t attaca. It’s similar, in a way to his 10th Symphony, in the movement structure. Slow, violent scherzo, slower movement, finale, but this is basic DSCH form. I have only been able to find one Shostakovich movement marker “Furioso” and it’s in the 10th quartet, and yes, it is appropriatly furious. The third movement has some beautiful writing. Every once and while the music sounds like the music from “Schindler’s List”, but John Williams likes copying other composers music (cough cough “The Planets”), so i’m not shocked. Overall, a great listen. In general, you can’t go wrong with DSCH’s serious works, and the quartets are amazing, so if you have not heard any the quartets, go out, get some recordings, and sit back and be knocked out.
Here’s the 9th. There are some recordings of the individual movements of the 10th on youtube, but no full length ones that my incredibly cursory search turned up.