Tag Archives: Shostakovich

Preview – Alexander String Quartet performs Mozart and Shostakovich Baruch College (4/25/13)


  • 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
Baruch College: 25th St. (bet. 3rd and Lexington Aves.), NYC

Performers: Alexander String Quartet

Performed at Baruch’s Performing Arts Center, the Alexander String Quartet is performing the two pieces W.A. Mozart:  String Quartet No. 23 in F major, K. 590 and the piece Dmitri Shostakovich:  String Quartet No. 7 in F sharp major, Op. 108.

The final string quartet of Mozart was to have been the third of six composer intended to dedicate to King Frederick William the 2nd of Prussia, a cello playing monarch.Shortly after entering the F major Quartet in his thematic catalo, Mozart told Puchberg in a further letter that he had been “obliged” to give away the quartets “for a mere song in order to have cash in hand to meet my present difficulties.” Along with its two companions, K. 590 has been generally regarded by commentators as being less successful than the great set of six “Haydn” quartets composed. Artaria’s advertisement for the “Prussian” quartets describes them as “concertante quartets. At the movement’s end, the coda restates the development, gracefully winds down, and ends on a witty high note.

Dmitri Shostakovich’s String Quartet No. 7 in F sharp major, Op. 108 was composed in the 1960s for the memorial of his first wife who died in 1954. It was premiered in Leningrad by Beethoven Quartet and consist of three movements with no breaks. The three movements are Allegretto, Lento, and Allegro. The String Quartet no. 7 in F sharp minor, OP 108, completed in March 1960, is the shortest of all Shostakovich’s quartets lasting only about 13 minutes.The three and a half minute second movement opens with a rising, then falling, four-note motif played on the muted second violin.


Music for silenced voice : Shostakovich and his fifteen quartets / Wendy Lesser. New Haven : Yale University Press, c2011

Recognition in Mozart’s operas / Jessica Waldoff. New York ; Oxford : Oxford University Press, 2011, c2006.


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
Baruch College: 25th St. (bet. 3rd and Lexington Aves.), NYC

Performers: The Alexander String Quartet

String quartet No. 23 was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s last string quartet.  It was one of three that “was dedicated to the King of Prussia, Friedrich Wilhem II”(Kenyon,228).  The three string quartets dedicated to the king where No. 21 in D K575, No. 22 in B flat K589,and No. 23 in F K590.  These were otherwise known as the “Three Prussian Quartets” (Kenyon 228). The king was a cellist, therefore Mozart intended to give the king a starring role in the pieces where he can play the cello, capturing the audiences attention.  Mozart purposely introduced the cello later in the piece where it is “high in its register, so it could hardly fail to be noticed”(Kenyon, 228). Mozart added roles for the king in the tenor to show off his skills(Kenyon, 228).

Before creating these three quartets, “Mozart gave a concert on May 26, 1789” ( Kenyon, 228).  This concert was not a complete success.  Therefore, after meeting the some cellist and the King, he came up with the string quartets including the king.  These three quartets succeeded and brought more fame to Mozart.

I found it quite unusual and rather interesting that we would hear the cello clearer instead of it being in the background. The melody seems to be embraced by the sound projected by the cello and of course this is to show the kings talent. But, it is interesting and it does create a rich sound because the cello is woody, the pitches are moderately low, and sounds very strong and royal.  I would definitely find more enjoyment listening to the music because it gives me a chance to imagine a story that goes along with the piece; Although, Watching the performance would give me the pleasure to watch the performers and how they interject emotion into the piece.


Dmitri Shostakovich is a soviet russian composer and pianist, who was born in 1906 and died in 1975.  One of his popular string quartet was No. 7 opus. 108.  Dmitri Shostakovich wrote this specific one for his first wife Nina.  This piece intends on capturing his memories of his wife, although “it is short, it was one of his most poetic works” (Moshevik, 161).  Although, this was a beautiful piece, it “had a spooky characteristic” (Moshevik, 161).

This piece is very interesting, it gives a mysterious and spooky feeling.  There is a lot of suspense, which makes the string quartet No. 7 so exciting. When the piece begins playing the second theme, it is pleasant and soft.  I found it very unusual and special that there was pizzicato in this piece. For this specific string quartet, I would like to watch the performance live rather than listening to it.  This is an intense and exciting performance, and watching the performers playing and their emotions would make the experience and the music more entertaining and memorable.


Kenyon, Nicholas. The Pegasus Pocket Guide to Mozart. New York: Pegasus Books LLC, 2006. Page 228.

Moshevik, Sofia. Dmitri Shostakovich, Pianist. Canada: Mc-Grill Queens University Press, 2004. Page 161.


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.