Shostakovich String Quartet No 8 in C Minor

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Dmitri Dmitriyevich Shostakovich who lived from 12 September] 1906 – 9 August 1975 was a Soviet and Russian composer and pianist. He is regarded as one of the major composers of the 20th century, with a unique harmonic language and a historic importance due to his years of work under Stalin.

Shostakovich achieved fame in the Soviet Union under the patronage of Soviet chief of staff Mikhail Tukhachevsky, but later had a complex and difficult relationship with the government. Nevertheless, he received accolades and state awards and served in the Supreme Soviet of the RSFSR  (1947) and the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union (from 1962 until his death).

Shostakovich being a polystylist developed a hybrid voice, combining a variety of different musical techniques into his works. His music is characterized by sharp contrasts, elements of the grotesque, and ambivalent tonality; he was also heavily influenced by the neoclassical style pioneered by Igor Stravinsky, and (especially in his symphonies) by the late Romanticism of Gustav Mahler.

Shostakovich’s orchestral works include 15 symphonies and six concerti. His chamber output includes 15 string quartets, a piano quintet, two piano trios, and two pieces for string octet. His solo piano works include two sonatas, an early set of preludes, and a later set of 24 preludes and fugues. Other works include three operas, several song cycles, ballets, and a substantial quantity of film music; especially well known is the “Waltz No. 2” from the Suite for Variety Orchestra, as well as the suite of music extracted from The Gadfly.

Dimitri Shostakovich’ String Quartet No. 8 in C Minor, Op. 110, was written in three days from 12–14 July 1960.

The piece was written shortly after Shostakovich reluctantly joined the Communist Party. According to the score, it is dedicated “to the victims of fascism and the war “.

Shostakovich’s musical response to these personal crises was the Eight String Quartet, composed in only three days. He subtitled the piece “To the victims of fascism and war”, ostensibly in memory of the Dresden fire-bombing that took place in 1945.

The work was written in Dresden, where Shostakovich was to write music for the film Five Days, Five Nights, a joint project by Soviet and East German filmmakers about the bombing of Dresden in World War II.

The quartet was premiered in 1960 in Leningrad by the Beethoven Quartet. In the liner notes of the Borodin Quartet’s 1962 recording, music critic Erik Smith writes, “The Borodin Quartet played this work to the composer at his Moscow home, hoping for his criticisms. But Shostakovich, overwhelmed by this beautiful realization of his most personal feelings, buried his head in his hands and wept. When they had finished playing, the four musicians quietly packed up their instruments and stole out of the room.

The quartet, extremely compact and focused, is in five interconnected movements and lasts about 20 minutes:

  1. Largo
  2. Allegro molto
  3. Allegretto
  4. Largo
  5. Largo

The first movement opens with the DSCH motif – Shostakovich’s musical signature. This slow, extremely sad theme can also be heard in his Cello Concerto No. 1, Symphony No. 10, Violin Concerto No. 1, Symphony No. 15 and Piano Sonata No. 2. The motif is used in every movement of this quartet, and is the basis of the faster theme of the third movement.

The work is filled with quotations of other pieces by Shostakovich: the first movement quotes his Symphony No. 1 and Symphony No. 5; the second movement uses a Jewish theme first used by Shostakovich in his Piano Trio No. 2; the third movement quotes the Cello Concerto No. 1; and the fourth movement quotes the 19th century revolutionary song “Tormented by Grievous Bondage” and the aria “Seryozha, my love” from Shostakovich’s opera Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District. The fifth contains a play upon another motif from Lady Macbeth.

The Shostakovich String Quartet No 8 is a beautiful and very emotionally written composition with the horrors of World War II as the stage and particularly the bombing of Dresden. If you have ever visited Dresden and see the magnitude of the bombing with this quartet in mind you will understand the feelings of Shostakovich immediately. The INGUZ Quartet felt itself privileged to be able to play this quartet during several concerts where their performance was always highly appreciated.

The composition has been recorded during July 2020 at the WestVest church in the Netherlands using a Blumlein microphone setting using 2 Vanguard V4 microphones and an array of Neumann KM184 microphones at 4-meter height to record the tonal characteristics of the church.

 

This part only for RTR buyers:

The reel-to-reel tape experience is a very special one, as it has a greater dynamic range than vinyl and it is capable of producing giving that warm feeling experience due to the extraordinary sound for high and low tones. It also has always a bit of a noise floor as it is analog technology that we use.

We give a 100% guarantee that the recording is fully analog with no digital processing at all. Each tape will be signed and will have a personal note to you as well as a booklet made during the process of recording and in which the musicians will be further introduced as well as the composition to make this tape a very personal purchase.

Tape recording process:

  • Label: JBRDG
  • Recorder used is a Stellavox SP8
  • Format: reel-to-reel, 15 ips, ¼” 2 track stereo at 10.5” NAB reels, CCIR (CCIR equalization with reference level 320 nWb/m on halftrack ¼”) or NAB equalization on your choice
  • Tape RTM LPR 90, SM900 or SM468

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