Quartet no.14

String Quartet No.14 in F# major, op.142

  1. Allegretto
  2. Adagio
  3. Allegretto

This late quartet is dedicated to the cellist Sergei Shirinsky, and the cello figures prominently in every movement. Along with much of his music composed from the op. 135 Fourteenth Symphony onwards, it is marked by Shostakovich's concerns with death, and fashions his own personal pain and pessimism into a tour de force. The music moves freely between diatonic and chromatic passages, the opening announcing F sharp major though a sustained F sharp on the viola, against which a straightforward melodic idea is heard on the cello. The first movement is based on sonata form, but with a free recapitulation. In the central Adagio textures are extremely spare until the warmer middle section. When the first part of the movement returns the music leads into the final Allegretto. More elusive in form, this movement climaxes in an enigmatic manner with a highly fragmented texture; first pairs of quavers, then triplet quavers, then semiquavers. As the music becomes increasingly reflectivein mood, parts of the Adagio are recalled, before the piece reaches a serene conclusion that is reminiscent of quieter moments in Dvor├ík's quartet writing. Programme notes courtesy of David Beard (Cardiff university)

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