Dedicated To Victims Of War And Terror/Shostakovich & Schnittke

March 26, 2012

Originally written as Shostakovich’s Eighth String Quartet (1960), it was later re-orchestrated by Rudolph Barshai, founder of the Moscow Chamber Orchestra, and today is recognized as one of his more popular works both as a chamber symphony and a string quartet. The quartet was completed in only three days during the shooting of Five Days-Five Nights in Dresden where Shostakovich was working on the film score. The title that Delos chose for the CD “Dedicated to Victims of War and Terror” is similar to the dedication chosen by Shostakovich although as it turns out the quartet was written as an autobiographical musical story of his life. He goes so far as to use his initials to create a personal motif for the work. You’ll hear the DSCH in each of the five movements, written by the composer to be played without pause.

Image                           There are references made to many of his works including Symphony Number One, Cello Concerto Number One, Piano Concerto Number One, Piano Trio Number Two, Symphony Number 5, Symphony Number 10, Symphony Number Eleven, “Lady Macbeth of Mtzensk” Opera, as well as traditional folk material.

The opening Largo is quite somber, somewhat religious, funeral like, and introduces the DSCH theme which sets the mood for the majority of the work. The Allegro Molto begins with a disturbing staccato passage which seems to be questioning. It is followed by a Jewish folk theme which further transmits the yearning and dissonance. The Allegretto is a classic Shostakovich waltz, the style I’ve grown so accustom to hearing in his soundtrack material. Further exploring of his Waltz material can be found on another Moscow Chamber Orchestra recording with Constantine Orbelian (DELOS 3257). The second Largo returns to the disturbing dissonance again searching for an answer to a question Shostakovich was pondering. The final movement is another Largo, quite depressing, which ends the autobiographical sketch. Written in the C minor key the overall mood offers little encouragement.

If possible I urge the listener to also seek out a recording of his eighth quartet to compare the two works. There are many available in the market but a recent recording by the Pacifica Quartet would be a fine addition to your collection. It is on the Chicago based label Cedille Label and also includes Shostakovich’s Quartets Five, Six, and Seven as well as Miaskovsky’s Quartet Number 13.Image

CEDILLE CDR90000 127

The CD also includes the modern dissonant Concerto for Piano and Strings (1979) of Alfred Schnittke (1934-1998) which will be discussed in a separate review. It is the perfect companion piece on this CD.

One cannot begin to imagine what Dmitri had to go through with Stalin and in spite of all of this the music he composed was superb. If he is somewhat new to you please take the time to explore him further. You won’t be disappointed in what you hear.

Track Listing: (played without pause)

1… Largo (5:23)

2… Allegro Molto (3:16)

3… Allegretto (4:47)

4… Largo (5:57)

5… Largo (4:16)

Total Time is 23:38

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