Archive for November, 2006

Shostakovich, String Quartet No. 8, Op. 110

Sunday, November 5th, 2006

Dmitri Shostakovich, 1906-1975

String Quartet No. 8 in c minor, Op. 110, 1960

Shostakovich’s String Quartet No. 8 in c minor comprises a mere twenty minutes of non-stop music, written in three days in 1960 as a distraction from a project to write a film score about the Dresden fire bombings of WWII. In a letter, Shostakovich sarcastically dismissed it as an “ideological piece of no use to anyone”. Officially, he dedicated it to the “Victims of Fascism and WWII”, but privately, he described it as a eulogy for himself, an epitaph close relations called a suicide note. The work has since become one of the most important string quartets of the 20th century, well known, frequently performed, extensively discussed. Vivid, dramatic, mesmerizing and devastating, this compact but dense quartet contains a lifetime of music: the life and music of Dmitri Shostakovich. (more…)

Haydn, String Quartet in D Major, Op. 64/5

Sunday, November 5th, 2006

Franz Joseph Haydn, 1732-1809

String Quartet in D Major, Op. 64, No. 5, “The Lark”, 1790

Haydn enjoyed a long life of well-being and success. As a composer, he pursued a steady, productive course of growth, continual refinement and remarkable perfection of music in the Viennese Classical style of which he was a prime architect. Central to this history was Haydn’s steady employment of over thirty years at the Esterhazy court where he enjoyed complete control of the estate’s musical activities and the freedom to create within an insulated environment of total support. The six string quartets, Op. 64, were the last he wrote within this enclave. (more…)

Debussy, String Quartet in g minor, Op. 10

Sunday, November 5th, 2006

Claude Debussy, 1862-1918

String Quartet in g minor, Op. 10, 1893

It is often said that the era of modern music began with a single work in 1894: Claude Debussy’s Prelude à l’après-midi d’un faune for orchestra. Before Schoenberg, Stravinsky or Bartók, Debussy was the first major composer to radically break from the continuous evolution of 19th century Romantic music from Beethoven to Wagner. As if from another world, Debussy appeared, bearing his magical music, novel in nearly every dimension. Reacting against the dominant influence of Germanic music with its logical rigors of form and development, he sought a new music of color, sensation, fleeting mood and relaxed form that would be distinctively French, as well as distinctively his own. (more…)