Hyperion Records

String Quartet No 7 in F sharp minor, Op 108

'Shostakovich: String Quartets Nos 5, 7 & 9' (CDA67155)
Shostakovich: String Quartets Nos 5, 7 & 9
Buy by post £10.50 CDA67155 
'Shostakovich: The Complete String Quartets' (CDS44091/6)
Shostakovich: The Complete String Quartets
CDS44091/6  6CDs Boxed set (at a special price) — Deleted  
Movement 1: Allegretto
Track 4 on CDA67155 [3'18]
Track 4 on CDS44091/6 CD3 [3'18] 6CDs Boxed set (at a special price) — Deleted
Movement 2: Lento
Track 5 on CDA67155 [4'05]
Track 5 on CDS44091/6 CD3 [4'05] 6CDs Boxed set (at a special price) — Deleted
Movement 3: Allegro
Track 6 on CDA67155 [5'56]
Track 6 on CDS44091/6 CD3 [5'56] 6CDs Boxed set (at a special price) — Deleted

String Quartet No 7 in F sharp minor, Op 108
Shostakovich’s Seventh Quartet was completed in March 1960. It is the shortest of the series but is no less significant for that. In many ways it explores aspects of quartet-writing not encountered in other of his works, at least up to that time. Ostensibly in three movements, which are played attacca, in practice it comes across as a four-movement structure, for the finale is very much in two parts. The work is dedicated to the memory of his first wife, Nina, who had died in 1954, and who, had she lived, would have celebrated her fiftieth birthday in 1960.

The quartet opens with a chromatic descending idea on first violin, answered by three repeated quavers, firmly anchoring the tonality to F sharp minor. A secondary rising theme—also in quavers—over a low C leads to the second subject proper in E flat minor, on the cello. This is combined with the secondary theme, and a developmental codetta leads to an extraordinary counter-statement of the preceding material. The tempo changes to 3/8, the quavers remaining even, and the timbre to pizzicato, as the tonality returns to F sharp minor. The second subject is restated more or less regularly in F sharp, and the earlier repeated quavers in a gentle coda quietly bring the movement to its close.

The second violin begins the central Lento with an accompanimental figure spread across the four strings, over which first violin sings a long-breathed theme clearly derived in part from the opening idea of the quartet. The instruments are muted throughout and when the viola and cello enter, in bare fifths, they bring the first glissando in any Shostakovich quartet. First cello, then viola, and finally both in octaves, continue the violin theme—second violin accompanies virtually throughout the movement—which is taken up by first violin again, over an eventual low D pedal, to the end, but not before a falling viola phrase—A, G sharp, F sharp, E sharp (i.e. F natural)—is heard. At once the finale burst upon us, the quartet’s opening anapæstic rhythm extended but at once silenced by the viola’s four-note phrase (the significance of which remains unclear) as the movement immediately hurtles on its breathless way. In its rush, themes from the second movement are recalled—almost grabbed at—before the quartet’s opening idea is given out, a third higher, by all four instruments in octaves, fff.

The recall of first-movement material brings proceedings almost to a halt, and then the second major part of the finale, in effect a fourth movement—not unlike a gentle ghostly waltz—begins. As it proceeds it recalls aspects of the first movement’s counter-statement before recapitulating, in essence, the gentle coda from that movement, now shown to be a coda to the entire composition.

from notes by Robert Matthew-Walker © 2001

Track-specific metadata
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Details for CDS44091/6 disc 3 track 5
Recording date
1 December 2000
Recording venue
St Petersburg Recording Studio, Russia
Recording producer
Alexander Gerutsky
Recording engineer
Gerhard Tses
Hyperion usage
  1. Shostakovich: String Quartets Nos 5, 7 & 9 (CDA67155)
    Disc 1 Track 5
    Release date: April 2001
  2. Shostakovich: The Complete String Quartets (CDS44091/6)
    Disc 3 Track 5
    Release date: January 2006
    Deletion date: April 2010
    6CDs Boxed set (at a special price) — Deleted
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