OF A TROUBLED WORLD
BILL NEWMAN discusses the Emersons' new recording
of the complete Shostakovich works for string quartet
<< Continued from page 4
What can one add to what has been written about the eighth quartet (again
1960) with its dedication to the memory of victims of war and fascism? [Listen, CD 3 track 5, 0:00 - 0:38.] When the work
was assigned to the department of 'exposing fascism', the composer blatantly
expostulated 'You have to be blind to do that...everything in it is as clear
as a primer [quoting themes from 'Lady Macbeth', Symphonies 1 and 5] ...
what does fascism have to do with these? ... it quotes a song known to all
Russians - exhausted by the hardships of prison.' Regarded by the composer
as autobiographical, it has become the most often performed of his quartets,
Shostakovich's DSCH repeated pattern recurring throughout. Finckel's comments
are very relevant: 'It's very sarcastic, and almost funny, but not quite.'
Pressure of work on his Symphony 13 had caused the composer to ease up,
with travel, teaching, rehearsals, performances and attendances at Composer
Union meetings adding to his burdens. In a fit of depression and self-criticism
he consigned the first version of Quartet No.9 to the stove. Based on themes
from childhood, the rewrite three years later dedicated to his new wife
Irina Supinskaya, editor and literary scholar is a large complex work, themes
growing out of each other throughout the five interconnected movements.
Mussorgsky is once again quoted in the psalm-like fourth [listen,
CD 3 track 13, 1:28 - 2:16]. The apparent simplicity at the start of
Quartet No.10 (the same year) is similarly structured, now over four movements,
although its mood shifts embrace nervousness, throbbing chords, falling
cello and spiralling violin melodies, brutality and a passacaglia metamorphosed
(3rd movement) which re-appears (4th movement) alongside some hysterical
counterpoint treatment of the opening movement's main melody. At the close,
the music disappears into a state of silence [listen,
CD 3 track 17, 7:42 - 8:40].
Copyright © 28 May 2000 Bill Newman,
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CD INFORMATION - DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 463
BILL NEWMAN IN CONVERSATION WITH THE EMERSON
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