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This is the penultimate CD in the St Petersburg String Quartet’s complete survey of string quartets by Shostakovich, in a series that has received the highest praise from all over the world.
The 10th quartet was written in the Summer of 1964 whilst the composer was at his summer retreat in Armenia. ‘Folk’ influences are not often found in Shostakovich’s serious work, but it may be that writing the quartet in Armenia had some bearing on the work, for example the hurdy-gurdy dance theme found in the finale. The 12th quartet was composed shortly before Shostakovich wrote his Violin Sonata, Op 134 for David Oistrakh in 1968. Both works provoked a great deal of interest at the time, as they both begin with 12- note themes. Although not strictly adhering to serial procedures, both show a new interest in serial thematicism. The 14th quartet was written between 1972 and 1973 and was preceded by his fifteenth and last symphony which had an underlying ‘programme’ to it, effectively the story of a man’s life—possibly his own. This aspect of reminiscence which was to assume great importance in his later works can also be found in the 14th quartet. The entire material is derived from the first six bars of a quirky, almost childish theme, and the finale quotes from one of his operas, Katarina Ismailova.
To round off the series, the St Petersburg String Quartet are to record the 1st quartet (1938) and Shostakovich’s Piano Quintet (1940), due for release in 2004.