Tag Archives: String Quartet

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.

Preview – Mozart and Shostakovich at Alexander String Quartet (4/25)


  • W.A. Mozart, String Quartet No. 23 in F major, K. 590
  • Dmitri Shostakovich, String Quartet No. 7 in F sharp major, Opus 108

Venue: Engelman Recital Hall, Baruch Preforming Arts Center, Manhattan, NY

Performers: Alexander String Quartet; Zakarias Grafilo, first violin; Fredrick Lifsitz, second violin; Pauly Yarbrough, viola; Sandy Wilson, cello


W.A. Mozart’s String Quartet No. 23 in F major, K 590 is one of three quartets that he composed under the commission of Frederick William II of Prussia. It was the last one of the three and was composed in June 1790. “This was a time of bitter care and poverty, which made it a painful effort to work at the quartets, but there is even less trace of effort in them than in the earlier ones (Jahn 16).”

Mozart brings the violoncello to the front since this is the instrument that his patron plays. This forces the viola to take the bass part and sets all of the instruments higher than usual. The first violin also alternates a lot with the violoncello. I will look for this when I listen to this piece live as I believe that this will affect how this will sound. This will make it unusual as compared to other quartets since the viola will take the bass part instead of the cello, and the cello will be emphasized.

Dmitri Shostakovich’s String Quartet No. 7 in F sharp major, Opus 108 was written in 1960. “An interesting point is that both the first and last movements are divided into two halves, duple and triple. Where the first movement’s motif has a falling line, the finale’s rises, but the switch to triple time half way through is the same in both movements. Another factor shared by these outer movements is their fluency of line, taking in its stride the various rhythmic irregularities that are used (Kay 53).” This seems unusual compared to other quartets and I will listen for this at the quartet.

I’m looking forward to the quartet as I heard nothing but great things about The Alexander String Quartet.

Jahn, Otto. Life of Mozart. New York: Cooper Square Publishers, Inc., 1970. Print.

Kay, Norman. Shostakovich. London: Oxford University Press, 1971. Print.

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

  1. Dmitri Shostakovich, String Quartet No.7 in F sharp major, Op. 108
  2. Wolgang Amadeus Mozart, String Quartet No. 23 in F major, K. 590
  • Baruch Performing Arts Center – Newman Vertical Campus Baruch College: 25th St. (bet. 3rd and Lexington Aves.), NYC
  • The Alexander String Quartet
   Dmitri Shostakovich was a soviet russian composer and pianist in the 20th century. At that time when Shostakovich started composing, there was also a war occurring between the Soviet Union and Germany. Shostakovich had composed many string quartet’s including the String Quartet No.7 in F sharp major, Op. 108. This piece was very popular. Shostakovich composed this piece for his wife. (Fay, Laurel 27) This piece that was composed for his wife would be meaningful and interesting to hear.
   Mozart was very undemanding child when he was young. He believed in bringing honor and fortune to his family. Even though his family would struggle fincancially, he was always willing to help out due to his father being passed away. Mozart was always content that his pieces will bring interest to the wide-eyed general populace.(Solomon, Maynard 48)  Mozart who wrote in many standard genres, composed the piece String Quartet No. 23 in F major, K. 590. This piece was very meaningful because it was one of the pieces in which has been acknowledged by the people. (Solomon, Maynard 20) This piece was made for the  Friedrich Wilhem II who was the King of Prussia. It was also one of the last pieces that he has composed. (Solomon, Maynard 34)
Fay, Laurel E. Shostakovich: A Life. New York: Oxford UP, 2000.
Solomon, Maynard. Mozart: A Life. New York, NY: HarperCollinsPublishers, 1995.


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.

Preview-Alexander String Quartet at Baruch Performing Arts Center (4/25)


  • 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.