Best Shostakovich quartet? Why is it always no.8?

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hangos
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Best Shostakovich quartet? Why is it always no.8?

Post by hangos » Mon Mar 05, 2007 2:25 pm

Having recently explored all 15 of Dmitri's quartets, it puzzles me that no.8 is the only one that most music lovers have ever heard(of). It's like a musical urban myth in my opinion - it's a bit like Beethoven's 5th Symphony (the only one he ever wrote because everybody has heard (of) it?) Yes, 8 is powerful and moving, but so are 10,11 and 12 ,to name just three.
What I like about these quartets is their intimacy, power and deceptive simplicity - they really do inhabit their own world.
So, how about it? Dig out your complete sets and let me know which quartets you rate above no.8 - but don't get too morbidly depressed in the process!
Cheers
Martin

Gregg
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Post by Gregg » Tue Mar 06, 2007 8:43 am

Nos. 4 and 15 for starters.

I think 4 runs second to 8 in popularity, nothing wrong with that.

Also well said, like Beethoven 5, Shostakovich quartet no. 8's popularity doesn't diminish the work's power or importance.


Gregg

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Post by Barry » Tue Mar 06, 2007 10:34 am

I do love the 8th, but number 3 is in that same category of greatness for me as well.
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Shostakovich SQ 3 is a great work

Post by hangos » Tue Mar 06, 2007 2:20 pm

Thank you Barry Z
I thought I was the only person who rated some of his other quartets as highly as the 8th.
I love the 3rd - such raw emotion and fighting spirit! No.5 I find quite similar in several ways. My own favourites are 10 (especially the way he recalls the adagio's tragic theme near the end, clashing with the rhythm of the finale) ,11 ( deceptively simple, short, fragmented and so effective the way the spirit ebbs away at the end) and 12 (a first movement worthy of Beethoven in its space and loftiness, followed by a trip into atonality with guts - a real master at work!). The others aren't far behind for me, and the beauty of the cycle lies in its variety - you never get bored!
Please keep posting your thoughts on these quartets - the Bartok forum I set up seems to have fizzled out!
Regards
Martin[/quote]

hangos
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Shostakovich SQs 4 and 15

Post by hangos » Tue Mar 06, 2007 2:36 pm

Thanks for your post, Gregg!
I also love no.4, not least because it was the first one of the 15 which I heard (on the radio one afternoon).I was immediately attracted to it and went on from there.I like the beauty and serenity of the opening (tricky to find the right tempo though) with its blend of sounds,and the melancholy sadness of the piece as a whole. No.15 is much bleaker, of course.Have you heard Andrei Shishlov play those stratospheric chords in that movement which sounds like a violin quartet? Incredibly intense, white hot. As you probably know, he was the leader of the Shostakovich Quartet in the 70s and 80s (available on Regis - 5 CDs at bargain price)I also have the Eder Quartet on Naxos, which is superbly and more fully recorded, another real bargain.Which recordings do you like best ?
I look forward to your views!
martin

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Post by RebLem » Tue Mar 06, 2007 6:31 pm

For me, its #15, which is about the end of life. It makes a great companion piece to the 15th symphony, which is about the same thing. Its a bit like the better interpretations of Strauss's Metamorphosen, also one of my favorite works.
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Post by Gregg » Wed Mar 07, 2007 1:43 pm

Yes, I'll take a double dose of 15. One of my fondest musical memories was when I first heard the symphony, via recording. As I was taking a few seconds to try to figure out the symphony's first movement, when the second movement began - I was jolted into changing mental states, back in to my general listening "emotionally open" attitude by that amazing movement.

Martin,

I'm a fan of the Borodin second set on CD. I like the Eder, and I have a few others. Including some orig Beethoven and orig St Petersburg Quartets on LP, both of whom I like a great deal. I've never cared to compare, when I feel like a little less acid I put one of the LPs on.

But there is one recording I recently found that is the my favorite #3. Perhaps someone on the board has more information. The quartet is coupled with Oistrakh's recordings of Brahms and Greig sonatas on that "Russian revelation" series RV10016.

The performers are: S. Kovetsky, A. Sharoyev
Rudolf Barshai, Julian Sitkovetsky

Great playing, relaxed, and musical in a way the Borodins are not, but they still have the bite.


Gregg

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Post by val » Thu Mar 08, 2007 4:52 am

I like very much the 8th, but my preferred are the 7th and the 14th.

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Post by pardew » Thu Mar 08, 2007 12:10 pm

My favorite is the 4th but only by the Janacek Quartet on Supraphon(so far).
Slightly disappointed by the Borodin and Fitzwilliam Quartets in this work.

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Post by bOrbOt » Thu Mar 08, 2007 7:42 pm

No.2 for me :D

hangos
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which quartets I like

Post by hangos » Fri Mar 09, 2007 5:35 am

Basically, I am very pleased that so many people have written to say that there are other quartets they know and like apart from no.8.
I like them all - No.1 is the one I listen to least frequently (as with Bartok!) and I get the most out of (in order);
  • 12
    10
    11
    3
    4
    7
    15
    6
    5
    14
    2
    8
    13
    9
    We are only talking minimal degrees of separation here,however!
    Let's keep this thread going - these are fascinating works which deserve further discussion

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Post by hangos » Fri Mar 09, 2007 5:45 am

pardew wrote
Slightly disappointed by the Borodin and Fitzwilliam Quartets in this work.
Have you tried the Eder on Naxos or the Shostakovich on Olympia/Regis?
I think the first movement opening's effect is very susceptible to change according to the tempo - it can easily sound just a little rushed. The first time I heard this lovely piece on radio it sounded instinctively right - but I can't remember who played it.

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Post by piston » Fri Mar 09, 2007 8:17 am

Sorry, hangos. I can't seem to be able to rank them :lol: The eight has its own interesting little story. Composed in three days while D.S. was in Dresden and still very much under the spell of the movie Five Days, Five Nights. The sixth, on the other hand, celebrates youth and life, a relatively rare example of an optimistic work for him. I guess most of these works are difficult to rank because two-thirds of D.S.'s quartets came late in his opus, after the death of Stalin, when Shostakovich might be seen as in full bloom. Another reason why he composed so many of them later in life is said to be his friendly competition with Moshei Weinberg for who completed the greatest number of string quartets :D The latter had completed twelve in 1970 and would go on to compose seventeen of them.

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Post by karlhenning » Fri Mar 09, 2007 8:42 am

piston wrote:Sorry, hangos. I can't seem to be able to rank them
Exactly.

Cheers,
~Karl
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Post by Gregg » Fri Mar 09, 2007 10:21 am

piston wrote:Another reason why he composed so many of them later in life is said to be his friendly competition with Moshei Weinberg for who completed the greatest number of string quartets
I should spend some time looking it up, but I can't. Didn't he plan on 24,
one for every key, similar to a set of etudes?


Gregg

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Post by piston » Fri Mar 09, 2007 11:00 am

Gregg wrote:
piston wrote:Another reason why he composed so many of them later in life is said to be his friendly competition with Moshei Weinberg for who completed the greatest number of string quartets
I should spend some time looking it up, but I can't. Didn't he plan on 24,
one for every key, similar to a set of etudes?


Gregg

That is what he did state in 1960:
According to Elizabeth Wilson’s Shostakovich: A Life Remembered, the composer intended to write a complete cycle of 24 string quartets. On being told in 1960 that Melodiya wished to record his “last” quartet, Shostakovich replied “Last Quartet? When I’ve written all my quartets, then we’ll talk about my last quartet”. On being asked how many he intended to write, he replied “Twenty-four. Haven’t you noticed that I never repeat a key? I’ll write twenty-four quartets, so as to have a complete cycle”. (See Shostakovich: A Life Remembered, p 389).

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Post by karlhenning » Fri Mar 09, 2007 11:06 am

According to Elizabeth Wilson’s Shostakovich: A Life Remembered, the composer intended to write a complete cycle of 24 string quartets. On being told in 1960 that Melodiya wished to record his “last” quartet, Shostakovich replied “Last Quartet? When I’ve written all my quartets, then we’ll talk about my last quartet”. On being asked how many he intended to write, he replied “Twenty-four. Haven’t you noticed that I never repeat a key? I’ll write twenty-four quartets, so as to have a complete cycle”. (See Shostakovich: A Life Remembered, p 389).
What is delightful about this, is its ambiguity. It may mean that Shostakovich sincerely intended a cycle of 24. Or he might have meant it as a wry retort, following up on the questioner's faux pas of using "last" rather than "latest." And of course, it may be that the actual case encompasses both these.

Cheers,
~Karl
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Post by Gregg » Mon Mar 12, 2007 9:22 pm

Thanks Piston,

I like 15, but if he continued in the direction he was going in, I don't know if I could imagine (or possibly sit through) the pace and sparseness of a quartet No. 30.....


Gregg

I should add that I assume he was not serious.

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Post by karlhenning » Wed Mar 14, 2007 7:20 am

Gregg wrote:I like 15, but if he continued in the direction he was going in, I don't know if I could imagine (or possibly sit through) the pace and sparseness of a quartet No. 30.....
Not to worry, Gregg; none of the audience can plot where a composer will go after such-&-so a piece. Only the artist himself can discover his path.

Cheers,
~Karl
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Post by Gregg » Wed Mar 14, 2007 10:41 am

karlhenning wrote: Not to worry, Gregg; none of the audience can plot where a composer will go after such-&-so a piece. Only the artist himself can discover his path.

Cheers,
~Karl
Untrue! There was an audience poll taken directly after the first performance of the Rite of Spring, and the overwhelming response of those polled suggested that Stravinsky should look at compositional models presented by earlier composers to find a more accessible path.

For better or worse in a few years Stravinsky decided to heed their opinions (probably after more market research).

So it's possible.


Gregg

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Post by karlhenning » Wed Mar 14, 2007 11:13 am

I like your sense of humor!

Cheers,
~Karl
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Valse Triste

15

Post by Valse Triste » Wed Mar 14, 2007 12:57 pm

I like the 15th best myself, dark and depressing but so beautiful. I definitely understand why the 8th is so popular though as well, an amazing work. Check out the St. Lawrence String Quartet recording of it, absolutely phenomenal.

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Post by piston » Tue Apr 10, 2007 4:37 pm

83-year old cellist Berlinsky, original member of the Borodin Quartet, still very active this spring.
(From The Moscow Times):

Shostakovich Squad

The venerable Borodin Quartet presents all 15 of Shostakovich's string quartets in a monthlong cycle of concerts at the Moscow Conservatory.

By Raymond Stults
Published: April 6, 2007

Most experts agree that string quartet writing in the 20th century reached its summit with the works in that form by Hungarian composer Bela Bartok and Russia's own Dmitry Shostakovich. Bartok's half dozen quartets seldom appear on Moscow concert programs. But at least some of the 15 that Shostakovich wrote have a place in the repertoire of every local string quartet and turn up frequently in their concerts.

Throughout April and into the beginning of May, Moscow audiences are being offered the rare chance to hear Shostakovich's quartets in their entirety, as played in a series of five concerts at the Moscow Conservatory -- which began last Sunday and continues Saturday -- by their most renowned interpreter, the Borodin Quartet.

By the time Shostakovich embarked on writing string quartets at the age of 31, he had already produced a very sizeable quantity of music, including five symphonies, three ballets and a pair of operas. And following his brief Quartet No. 1 of 1938, some six more years went by before he produced another. After that, however, and until shortly before his death in 1975, he managed to turn out quartets with considerable regularity.


Authorities on the music of Shostakovich generally cite the quartets as the most personal of the composer's works, each of them seeming to give voice to his innermost thoughts and feelings at the time it was composed.

No chamber ensemble in the world plays the Shostakovich quartets with greater authority than the Borodin Quartet. The earliest of the works have been part of the group's repertoire practically since the day of its founding in 1945, and its playing of nearly all the quartets received the composer's personal appraisal prior to being heard in public. In the years since Shostakovich's death, the Borodin has not only included individual quartets in numerous of its programs, but also, not counting the current Moscow performances, played them as a complete cycle no fewer than 39 times, in concert halls throughout the world.

Inevitably, the Borodin has undergone changes in personnel over its more than six decades of existence and, among its current members, only cellist Valentin Berlinsky, now in his 83rd year, remains from the original group. Berlinsky is also the only member today who took part in the quartet's private sessions with Shostakovich and, without much doubt, it is principally from him that the Borodin now derives its interpretive approach to the composer's music.

Among the 15 Shostakovich quartets, No. 8, written in 1960 and dedicated "to the memory of the victims of fascism and war," is probably the finest work of all. In an interview some 15 years ago with Shostakovich biographer Elizabeth Wilson, Berlinsky described Quartet No. 8 "as a landmark, the summing up of a whole period in the composer's life" and, with its quotations from his earlier works, taking on "the character of an autobiography."

In the same interview, Berlinsky went on to describe the Borodin's initial private performance of No. 8 for Shostakovich. "[W]hen we finished playing," he said, "[Shostakovich] left the room without saying a word, and didn't come back. ... The next day he rang me up in a state of great agitation. He said, 'I'm sorry, but I just couldn't face anybody. I have no corrections to make, just play it the way you did.'"

Those who know the Borodin and its Shostakovich interpretations will probably want to hear all of the current concerts. But for others, who may simply wish to sample the playing, the best recommendations would be the concert of April 15, which has as its centerpiece the Quartet No. 8, or the final concert on May 2, which offers a chance to hear the last of the quartets, No. 15, sometimes described as the composer's farewell to both music and life.

Shostakovich's quartets are by no means difficult to listen to, but capturing their depths of thought and emotion does require the listener's careful attention. The rewards for such attention, particularly with playing like that of the Borodin, are likely to exceed those of almost any other concert experience.

The Borodin Quartet continues its cycle of Shostakovich string quartets Sat. at 7 p.m., followed by concerts April 15, April 28 and May 2, in the Conservatory Small Hall, located at 13 Bolshaya Nikitskaya Ulitsa. Tel. 229-9401. Metro Pushkinskaya, Biblioteka Imeni Lenina.

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Post by living_stradivarius » Tue Apr 10, 2007 5:18 pm

Doesn't no. incorporate readily recognizable themes from his other works?
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