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
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)