When Shostakovich began writing his Second String Quartet he had already completed eight of his fifteen symphonies. He was also half-way through his life. Another thirteen quartets however remained to be composed, and they would come in rapid succession.
Playing time is approximately 35 minutes, one minute shorter than his longest, the Fifteenth Quartet. The work has four movements:
The overture that the work begins with is in sonata form, traditional for the first movement of such a work. The music is strong, forceful, and animated. This strong tone is subdued by the lyrical, wandering mood of the recitative. The first violin leads a slow, distressed line of music over soft seventh chords, and eventually finds calm in the romance.