Preview – Mozart and Shostakovich at Alexander String Quartet (April 25th)


  • Wolgang Amadeus Mozart, String Quartet No. 23 in F major, K. 590
  • Dmitri Shostakovich, String Quartet No.7 in F sharp major, Op. 108
Venue: Engelman Recital Hall (at Baruch Performing Arts Center), New York, NY 
Performers: Alexander String Quartet
  • Zakarias Grafilo – violin 1
  • Frederick Lifsitz – violin 2
  • Paul Yarbrough – viola
  • Sandy Wilson – Cello

Mozart’s String Quartet No. 23 (K. 590) was one of the last quartet he composed. This piece is known as the “Prussian Quartets” with other 2 quartets (K. 575 and 589) which Mozart wrote and dedicated them to the King of Prussia: Frederick William II, a cellist. (Pauly 1988, 167). These quartets were written with solo sections for the cello as well as the other instruments (Rosen 1998, 281), somehow allowing the cello to become a melody instrument which proves that Mozart was thinking  how the king could show his prowess.

Knowing this, I believe that this piece would definitely sound bright since it is a composition for a king; if it were dark and mysterious many would question what is wrong with the king, land or if the composer has something against the king. I will look forward to hear the cello solo parts, will all instruments play the accompaniment? will their timbre over ride the sound of the cello?

Sources: Rosen, Charles. The Classical Style: Hayden, Mozart, Beethoven (Expanded Edition). New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1998. Print.

Pauly, Reinhard G. Music in the Classical Period. 3rd ed. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1988. Print.


Dimitri Shostakovich wrote his Seventh Quartet between 1959 – 1960, “[dedicating it] to the memory of his first wife Nina” and being a 3 movement piece, it is the shortest composition of all his Quartets, lasting roughly 12 minutes (Kuhn 2008, 50 – 51). In this piece, the “harmonic tension” of the movement keys are not resolve until reaching the recapitulation since there is no development. (Kuhn 2008, 51). Although the piece is written in F sharp minor, F sharp major is noted “in the endings of the first and third movement” (Kuhn 2008, 51), the same key used in his opera: Lady Macbeth symbolizing “love,” an opera dedicated to his first wife as well.

The fact that it was written in a decade where Shostakovich lost his mother and first wife (Fairclough 2008, 279), I believe that this piece should make me feel sad but since it will be performed in a different key, it might change my perspective. In the original composition, F sharp major is noted at the end of first and third movement, what will this performing Quartet do: will it remain the same key? or not? The fact that this piece first movement has a “sonata form” without a development makes me wonder how the conflict is resolved since most of the sonata forms I’ve learned and listened are complete (exposition, development, recapitulation and coda).

Sources: Kuhn, Judith and Paulina Fairclough. “The String Quartet: In Dialogue with Form and Tradition” and “Slava! The ‘Official Compositions.’” In The Cambridge Companion to     Shostakovich. edited by Pauline Fairclough and David Fanning. 50-51, 279. New York:     Cambridge University Press, 2008. Print.