Quartet no.2

String Quartet No 2 in A major, op 68

1. Overture: Moderato con moto

2. Recitative and Romance: Adagio

3. Waltz: Allegro

4. Theme with Variations: Adagio

Shostakovich’s second quartet is a wartime piece perhaps suggesting a certain relief, or confidence, in the outcome. He composed it in 1944, apparently in no more than three weeks of that September, just after completing the Second Piano Trio, and the two works were premiered at the same Leningrad concert in mid-November, the quartet played (like nearly all Shostakovich’s quartet premieres) by the Beethoven Quartet.

It was six years since the compact and unpretentious first quartet, but though written so quickly - “too quickly,” Shostakovich told its dedicatee, Vissarion Shebalin – it came out more than twice as long, and with dark colourings and a virile energy of which its predecessor was largely innocent. The form suggests a suite – perhaps like Tchaikovsky’s orchestral ones. But the feeling is at once bolder and more reflective, and with typical ironic shades in the quick waltz. The influence of folk-song is more apparent than usual with Shostakovich, perhaps in line with Stalin’s wartime strictures on art; but if that meant fresh air and jolly heartiness to hopeful apparatchiks, to Shostakovich it meant something altogether more complicated, as the variations indicate.
(This note courtesy of Cardiff University)

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