Dmitri Shostakovich, String Quartet No.7 in F sharp major, Op. 108
Wolgang Amadeus Mozart, String Quartet No. 23 in F major, K. 590
Venue: Baruch Performing Arts Center – Newman Vertical Campus
Baruch College: 25th St. (bet. 3rd and Lexington Aves.), NYC
Performers: Alexander String Quartet
Wolgang Amadeus Mozart, String Quartet No. 23 in F major, K. 590 was the last piece of the three quartets in “Prussian Quartets” that were composed for the King of Prussia, Frederick William II. The style of the quartet was similar to the styles of Joseph Haydn. The Quartet was played for the king on May 26, 1789. The piece is consist of four movements which are Allegro, Andate, Menuetto, and Allegro.
Dmitri Shostakovich: String Quartet No. 7 in F sharp minor, Op. 108 was composed when he was 54 years old in 1960 for his first wife Nina Vassilyevna Varzar who died in December 1954. The piece is only consist of three movements which are Allegretto, Lento, and Allegro. This was considered to be the shortest of all Dmitri Shostakovich quartets. The quartet is about 13 minutes long and was played with two violins, viola and a cello. What is really interesting is that for the performance, the Dmitri Shostakovich: String Quartet No. 7 in F sharp minor, Op. 108 will be played F sharp major instead of F major minor which would I find amusing because it can change the whole mood of the piece.
Pauly, Reinhard G. Music in the Classical Period. 3rd ed. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1988. Print
Moshevik, Sofia. Dmitri Shostakovich, Pianist. Canada: Mc-Grill Queens University Press, 2004
W.A. Mozart: String Quartet No. 23 in F major, K. 590
Dmitri Shostakovich: String Quartet No. 7 in F sharp major, Op. 108
Venue: Baruch Performing Arts Center – Newman Vertical Campus
Performers: Alexander String Quartet: Zakarias Grafilo violin 1, Fredrick Lifsitz violin 2, Paul Yarbrouh Viola, Sandy Wilson Cello
Dmitri Shostakovich the famous composer of Soviet Russia was born in St. Petersburg now known as Leningrad on September 25, 1906 (Blokker 1979, 17). As a young child, Shostakovich showed remarkable talent and skill in music, being able to recite an entire opera after one hearing (Blokker 1979, 18). His parents realized the musical talent of young Shostakovich and tried to cultivate it, enlisting him in a special school for children of radical or intellectual parents; Shostakovich was also simultaneously enrolled at the Glyasser Music School to study piano under M. Glyasser, quickly winning his teacher’s affection through his skill and potential (Blokker 1979, 18). During the Communist revolution, young Shostakovich witnessed first-hand the brutality of the war, seeing a police officer heartlessly kill a small boy suspected of stealing, this incident would later become the inspiration for one of his episodes of his Second Symphony (Blokker 1979, 22). Many of Shostakovich’s pieces are in fact inspired through witnessing the dramatic changes Russia went through, including the effects of World War II. It was not until his composition of the First Symphony that won him international recognition. The success of the premiere had Shostakovich praised as an up and coming Soviet composer (Blokker 1979, 21). Shostakovich soon became invaluable to the government, as the Soviet leaders identified him as being the “artistic representation” of the Soviet Party (Blokker 1979, 23). Knowing this information, I would expect the piece I will be hearing live, to portray aspects of Russia during its early years of Communism as well as hearing musical elements depicting the nationalistic pride of Russia as they fought their German nemeses during World War II.
Shostakovich composed his String Quartet No. 7 in F sharp major in memory of his first wife Nina Vassilyevna Varzar who died at the age of 58 in December 1954 (Elizabeth 2006, 128). Composing a piece about his first wife is unusual in regards to Shostakovich’s style. Shostakovich’s pieces usually entail war and political themes. To make it more unusual this piece was composed six years after her death, during his second marriage to Margarita Kainova (Elizabeth 2006, 129).
Wolfgang Arminius Mozart, from his early was classified as being a musical genius and a child protégé, serving as inspiration for various impending artists. As a child, Mozart was examined by several distinguished observers, who authenticated his gifts with scientific reports as a phenomenal talent (Solomon 1995, 3). Mozart remained tightly restricted by his father and even pledged to remain a loyal subject to Leopold Mozart; Leopold was desperate to control his son since it was his only way of preserving his source of surplus income as well as the integrity of his personality (Solomon 1995, 11). Along with his father, Mozart continued his musical career, from being employed as a court musician at Salzburg to journeying Paris for employment (Solomon 1995, 47). During his early years, Mozart developed a friendship with Joseph Haydn and derived similar musical elements from Haydn, who at that time was already a famous composer. Mozart drew much inspiration from Haydn, specifically for his string quartets ((Solomon 1995, 32). Knowing that Mozart worked closely with Hayden, I will expect to notice possible similarities between Mozart’s string quartet and those of Joseph Haydn.
Mozart’s String Quartet No. 23 in F major, K. 590 was written for Friedrich Wilhelm II, who identified himself as an amateur cellist along with being the King of Prussia (Eisen 2002,). The piece is written in a similar to style to those of Haydn. Mozart supposedly played for the king in Berlin but there is not enough documented evidence to suggest he actually performed at the Prussian court (Solomon 1995, 442). K.590 along with K.589 made no reference to the King of Prussia, making it questionable if the six quartets including K.590 were actually commissioned by the King of Prussia (Solomon 1995, 443). The ambiguity over whether Mozart was paid for creating the quartets makes the piece seem more interesting, as Mozart struggled financially.
Blokker, Roy. The Music of Dmitri Shostakovich.London: The Tantivy Press,1979.
Eisen, Cliff. The New Grove Mozart. Palgrave: Macmillan, 2002.
Elizabeth, Wilson. Shostakovich: A Life Remembered. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 2006.
Solomon, Maynard. Mozart: A Life. New York City: HarperCollins,1995.