String Quartet No. 11 (Shostakovich)

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Dmitri Shostakovich's String Quartet No. 11 in F minor, Op. 122 was composed in 1966. It was premiered by the Beethoven Quartet and is dedicated to Vasily Shirinsky, the quartet's veteran second violin.


The piece has seven movements, all of them in continuous playing, without pause:

  1. Introduction: Andantino -
  2. Scherzo: Allegretto -
  3. Recitative: Adagio -
  4. Etude: Allegro -
  5. Humoresque: Allegro -
  6. Elegy: Adagio -
  7. Finale: Moderato - Meno mosso - Moderato

Even though Shostakovich was a prominent pianist, he is well known in the chamber music field for his string quartets, together with Schoenberg and Bartók. In this quartet, Shostakovich portrays his fears with dark and grim moods. The quartet begins with a violin which introduces the main theme; this will be developed all along the quartet, with the rest of the group accompanying it somewhat subtly. It is immediately followed by the second movement which suggests a more sinister atmosphere with its mechanical and repetitive conception, always with a dialogue in two voices and adorned with glissandi; this movement is in a structure similar to that of a canon. The second movement leads to the dissonant beginning of the third, which jolts the whole quartet into a series of fast notes and long, dissonant chords. The fourth movement and the fifth form a diptych in which fast melodies and repetitive motions are present. In the fourth, the first violin plays fast notes while the rest of the group plays menacing chords; in the fifth, the ostinato in the first violin simplifies the motion presented in the previous movement.

From now on, the general mood of the quartet changes and turns more elegiac and tragic. The sixth movement is much longer and consists of long chords and short melodic lines. Finally, the last movement is a recapitulation of all the themes presented in previous movement but, like the previous one, calm and profound.

Playing time is approximately 16 minutes.