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Quartet No 5 in B flat major Op.92

Dmitri Shostakovich (b. 1906 - d. 1975)

Signum Quartet

Signum Quartet

Composer
Dmitri Shostakovich (b. 1906 - d. 1975)
Composition Year
1952
Work Movements
1.Allegro non troppo
2. Andante
3. Moderato - Allegretto - Andante
Artists
Signum Quartet (Kerstin Dill, Annette Walther [violins], Xandi van Dijk [viola], and Thomas Schmitz [cello]) [quartet]

Programme Note Writer:
© Francis Humphrys

 

The Fifth Quartet was the last of Shostakovich’s quartets written in the Stalinist era and it had to join the queue of other works that would not be given their first public performance until after Stalin's death. It is one of the most uncompromising and disturbing of the quartets, particularly in the gritty opening Allegro. This movement is dominated by a motto theme that appears in the opening bars. It is almost immediately brushed aside by the much more forceful first subject, but it keeps on insidiously reinserting itself in the argument, even to the extent of acting as a counter-subject at one of the many climactic moments. This is very much a new sound world in the quartets, with driving rhythms allied to massive textures and a monstrous power. There is a dreamily lyrical second subject that does not get much of a chance to establish itself until just before the long transition to the second movement.

The three movements are played without a break and these transitions are engineered with great care. After the final appearance of the second subject there is a long pizzicato-led section where the first violin borrows a theme from Ustvolskaya's Clarinet Trio before climbing up to a sustained F, which is held until the Andante theme creeps in. Here the music attains an unusual peace, untainted by the sorrow of the times. Again we are led into a new muted sound world, where he seeks to recreate the mood at the end of Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde, the music of eternity. He was apparently particularly taken by the sound of the celesta at that point of Mahler's score.

For the lead-in to the amazing Finale, the music gradually slows to near stillness and then a sustained chord creates the actual transition. The introductory Moderato, with a wistful melody from the second violin, retains the peacefulness of the previous movement, before the dancing Allegro finally breaks in, slowly growing in intensity. This movement is on the same scale as the first movement, but with a less dense textural argument. Themes from both the earlier movements are allowed to intrude breaking up the momentum and it is the gentle introduction to the Finale that has the last word, guiding the music to peacefulness in an extended and consolatory coda.

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Quartet No 5 in B flat major Op.92

Composer: Dmitri Shostakovich (b. 1906 - d. 1975)
Performance date: Tuesday 30th June 2015
Venue: Bantry House Library, Bantry, Co. Cork, Ireland,

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http://archive.westcorkmusic.ie/details/view/cmf/498

Composer Dmitri Shostakovich (b. 1906 - d. 1975)
Work Title Quartet No 5 in B flat major Op.92
Composition Year 1952
Work Movements 1.Allegro non troppo
2. Andante
3. Moderato - Allegretto - Andante
Artist(s) Signum Quartet (Kerstin Dill, Annette Walther [violins], Xandi van Dijk [viola], and Thomas Schmitz [cello]) [quartet]
Performance Date Tuesday 30th June 2015
Performance Venue Bantry House Library, Bantry, Co. Cork, Ireland,
Event Main Evening Concert
Duration 00:32:24
Recording Engineer Richard McCullough, RTÉ lyric fm
Instrumentation Category String Quartet
Instrumentation 2vn, va, vc
Programme Note Writer © Francis Humphrys

 

The Fifth Quartet was the last of Shostakovich’s quartets written in the Stalinist era and it had to join the queue of other works that would not be given their first public performance until after Stalin's death. It is one of the most uncompromising and disturbing of the quartets, particularly in the gritty opening Allegro. This movement is dominated by a motto theme that appears in the opening bars. It is almost immediately brushed aside by the much more forceful first subject, but it keeps on insidiously reinserting itself in the argument, even to the extent of acting as a counter-subject at one of the many climactic moments. This is very much a new sound world in the quartets, with driving rhythms allied to massive textures and a monstrous power. There is a dreamily lyrical second subject that does not get much of a chance to establish itself until just before the long transition to the second movement.

The three movements are played without a break and these transitions are engineered with great care. After the final appearance of the second subject there is a long pizzicato-led section where the first violin borrows a theme from Ustvolskaya's Clarinet Trio before climbing up to a sustained F, which is held until the Andante theme creeps in. Here the music attains an unusual peace, untainted by the sorrow of the times. Again we are led into a new muted sound world, where he seeks to recreate the mood at the end of Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde, the music of eternity. He was apparently particularly taken by the sound of the celesta at that point of Mahler's score.

For the lead-in to the amazing Finale, the music gradually slows to near stillness and then a sustained chord creates the actual transition. The introductory Moderato, with a wistful melody from the second violin, retains the peacefulness of the previous movement, before the dancing Allegro finally breaks in, slowly growing in intensity. This movement is on the same scale as the first movement, but with a less dense textural argument. Themes from both the earlier movements are allowed to intrude breaking up the momentum and it is the gentle introduction to the Finale that has the last word, guiding the music to peacefulness in an extended and consolatory coda.