Shostakovich Quartet 13

String Quartet in B flat minor 1. Adagio-Doppio movimento-Tempo primo Suffering from heart disease, smoking-related cancers and polio-related illness, Shostakovich wrote his 13th quartet after a period of intensive treatment in a clinic in Kurgan. Composed at the same time that Shostakovich was writing the film score for 'King Lear- the Lamentations', the quartet is a dark and desolate one movement lamentation that shares a mood of bleak despair with Shakespeare's tragedy. The quartet is dedicated to Vadim Borisovsky, the original viola player of the Beethoven Quartet, who had recently retired. As with the 12th quartet, it begins with a twelve semitone row but this time it is introduced by the viola as a haunting lament. At the very centre of the work is a grim death dance over a walking bass which Eugene Druker from the Emerson Quartet describes as 'a jam session from hell'. The players are called upon to knock the bellies of their instruments with their bows, with the violist called upon to hit the instrument a symbolic 13 times. The music evaporates into ghostly trills before returning to the material of the opening lament. The coda sees the viola climb to a height seldom demanded by composers. When it reaches its final high note, the two violins join in with a blistering crescendo from pp to sffff, creating a startling effect that will remain in the memory long after the work has finished.

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