The world's first

Shostakovich
marathon

NEXT MARATHON

07
Apr.

Shostakovich Marathon Concert
Hamburg, Germany

Laeiszhalle Hamburg
presented by the Atrium Quartet

The cycle of all 15 string quartets performed in one day

Shostakovich’s iconic string quartets have occupied a very special place in our lives since the forming of our group. It’s as if we the members of the Atrium Quartet, were born with this music already in our hearts and minds.

Anna, Alexey, Anton and Dmitry

These 15 string quartets have had overarching significance in history, our personal histories, and specifically during the turbulent “Soviet epoch” of the XX Century. They are every bit as emblematic and as vivid to us as die stories passed on to us by our parents and grandparents.

Dmitry Shostakovich was a cult composer during the most challenging, difficult and tragic times of the Soviet epoch of Russian History. He created music that reflected the depth and breadth of events in the mid-20th century.

That is what makes his music so moving, and so close to people’s hearts in Russia and around the World.

Six and a half hours of music —
an entire “lifetime” in a single day

Quartet
No.1 in C major Op.49

String Quartet No. 1 in C major (Op. 49) was composed in six weeks during the summer of 1938. It carries no dedication. This string quartet has none of the bravura of the fifth symphony which preceded it. Instead, the composer seemed to have discovered a new kind of distinctly Russian neoclassicism. The tone is chiefly optimistic, although the minor-keyed inner movements provide a contrast. Shostakovich wrote of this quartet "I visualized childhood scenes, somewhat naive and bright moods associated with spring."

Quartet
No.2 in A major Op.68

Dmitri Shostakovich's String Quartet No. 2 in A major, Op. 68, was composed in 1944 in just nineteen days in Ivanovo, 300 kilometres north-east of Moscow. It was premiered by the Beethoven Quartet and is dedicated to the composer Vissarion Shebalin. When Shostakovich began writing his Second String Quartet he had already completed eight of his fifteen symphonies. He was also half-way through his life. Another thirteen quartets however remained to be composed, and they would come in rapid succession. The overture that the work begins with is in sonata form, traditional for the first movement of such a work. The music is strong, forceful, and animated. This strong tone is subdued by the lyrical, wandering mood of the recitative. The first violin leads a slow, distressed line of music over soft seventh chords, and eventually finds calm in the romance.

Quartet
No.3 in F major Op.73

Dmitri Shostakovich's String Quartet No. 3 in F major, op. 73, was composed in 1946 after his Symphony No. 9 was censured by Soviet authorities. It was premiered in Moscow by the Beethoven Quartet, to whom it is dedicated, in December 1946. A chamber symphony arrangement (Op. 73a) was made of this quartet by Rudolph Barshai. It calls for flute, oboe, English horn, clarinet, bassoon, harp, and strings. It adds winds for tonal colour in the style of Shostakovich's symphonies. The first movement is constructed using sonata allegro form. The first theme appears in the first violin and is often heard interacting with the cello. The second theme is stated in the first violin and then imitated and transformed by the other three instruments. The development is rather long and pulls its material mainly from the first theme. Finally the coda arrives with an acceleration and crescendo, borrowing, once again, the main theme as its material.

Quartet
No.4 in D major Op.83

Dmitri Shostakovich's String Quartet No. 4 in D major, op. 83, was composed in 1949. It was premiered in Moscow in 1953 and is dedicated to the memory of Pyotr Vilyams (1902–1947), the artist and set designer.This string quartet is notable for the second movement's sustained, passionate first violin part, which rises to ecstatic heights, and also for the suspenseful and complex last movement.

Quartet
No.5 in B flat major Op.92

Dmitri Shostakovich's String Quartet No. 5 in B flat major (Op. 92) was composed in autumn 1952. It was premiered in Leningrad in November 1953 by the Beethoven Quartet, to whom it is dedicated.The work grows from a five note motif: C, D, E flat, B and C sharp, which contains the composer's musical monogram: DSCH (E flat being S and B being H in German). This monogram appears in a number of his other string quartets, including the Eighth, as well as his Tenth Symphony.

Quartet
No.6 in G major Op.101

Dmitri Shostakovich's String Quartet No. 6 in G major (Op. 101) was composed in 1956. It was premiered by the Beethoven Quartet but carries no dedication.The Allegretto first movement creates a carefree mood using nursery tunes. The second movement is a cheerful round dance in E-flat major, the third movement a chaconne in B-flat minor. The final movement leads into a complex Allegretto showing the influence of both Alban Berg’s Lyric Suite and Richard Strauss’s Metamorphosen. The quartet also features the only vertical appearance of the DSCH motive (the notes D, E-flat, C, and B played at the same time). This happens at the cadence at the end of each movement.

Quartet
No.7 in F sharp minor Op.108

Dmitri Shostakovich's String Quartet No. 7 in F-sharp minor (Op. 108) was composed in February and March 1960 in memory of his first wife Nina Vassilyevna Varzar, who died in December 1954. It was premiered in Leningrad by the Beethoven Quartet on 15 May 1960.

Quartet
No.8 in C minor Op.110

Dmitri Shostakovich's String Quartet No. 8 in C minor (Op. 110) was written in three days (12–14 July 1960). It was premiered that year in Leningrad by the Beethoven Quartet. The piece was written shortly after two traumatic events in the life of the composer: the first presentation of debilitating muscular weakness that would eventually (in 1965) be diagnosed as a rare form of polio, and his reluctant joining of the Communist Party. According to the score, it is dedicated "to the victims of fascism and war"; his son, Maxim, interprets this as a reference to the victims of all totalitarianism, while his daughter Galina says that he dedicated it to himself, and that the published dedication was imposed by the Russian authorities. Shostakovich's friend, Lev Lebedinsky, said that Shostakovich thought of the work as his epitaph and that he planned to commit suicide around this time.[1] The work was written in Dresden, where Shostakovich was to write music for the film Five Days, Five Nights, a joint project by Soviet and East German film-makers about Bombing of Dresden in World War II.

Quartet
No.9 in E flat minor Op.117

Dmitri Shostakovich's String Quartet No. 9 in E-flat major, op. 117, was composed in 1964 and premiered by the Beethoven Quartet. The Ninth Quartet was dedicated to his third wife, Irina Antonovna Shostakovich, a young editor he married in 1962. Shostakovich rarely changed or revised his works, but the Ninth Quartet is one of the rare exceptions. Elizabeth Wilson writes in her biography Shostakovich: A Life Remembered, "Shostakovich finished the first version of the Ninth Quartet in the autumn of 1961. In a fit of depression, or, to quote his own words, 'in an attack of healthy self-criticism, I burnt it in the stove. This is the second such case in my creative practice. I once did a similar trick of burning my manuscripts, in 1926.'"[1] Shostakovich took three years to complete the new Ninth Quartet, finishing it on 28 May 1964. The premiere was by the Beethoven Quartet in Moscow on 20 November 1964. The Beethoven Quartet had the exclusive rights to perform all of Shostakovich's string quartets. Dmitri Tsyganov, the first violinist, recalled that Shostakovich told him that the first Ninth Quartet was based on "themes from childhood", and the newer Ninth Quartet was "completely different".

Quartet
No.10 in A flat major Op.118

Dmitri Shostakovich's String Quartet No. 10 in A-flat major, op. 118, was composed in 1964. It was premiered by the Beethoven Quartet and is dedicated to his close friend Mieczysław (Moisei) Weinberg.

Quartet
No.11 in F minor Op.122

Dmitri Shostakovich's String Quartet No. 11 in F minor, Op. 122 was composed in 1966. It was premiered by the Beethoven Quartet and is dedicated to Vasily Shirinsky, the quartet's veteran second violin. Even though Shostakovich was a prominent pianist, he is well known in the chamber music field for his string quartets, together with Schoenberg and Bartók. In this quartet, Shostakovich portrays his fears with dark and grim moods. The quartet begins with a violin which introduces the main theme; this will be developed all along the quartet, with the rest of the group accompanying it somewhat subtly. It is immediately followed by the second movement which suggests a more sinister atmosphere with its mechanical and repetitive conception, always with a dialogue in two voices and adorned with glissandi; this movement is in a structure similar to that of a canon. The second movement leads to the dissonant beginning of the third, which jolts the whole quartet into a series of fast notes and long, dissonant chords. The fourth movement and the fifth form a diptych in which fast melodies and repetitive motions are present. In the fourth, the first violin plays fast notes while the rest of the group plays menacing chords; in the fifth, the ostinato in the first violin simplifies the motion presented in the previous movement. From now on, the general mood of the quartet changes and turns more elegiac and tragic. The sixth movement is much longer and consists of long chords and short melodic lines. Finally, the last movement is a recapitulation of all the themes presented in previous movement but, like the previous one, calm and profound.

Quartet
No.12 in D flat major Op.133

Dmitri Shostakovich's String Quartet No. 12 in D-flat major (Op. 133) was composed in 1968. It is dedicated to Dmitri Tsyganov, the first violinist of the Beethoven Quartet, which premiered the work.

Quartet
No.13 in B flat minor Op.138

Dmitri Shostakovich's String Quartet No. 13 in B flat minor (Op. 138) was first conceived in 1969, and completed in 1970 as Shostakovich was undergoing treatment at an orthopedic clinic in Kurgan.The piece was dedicated to Vadim Borisovsky, violist of the Beethoven Quartet, and the viola is accordingly given a prominent role in the piece. The quartet opens with a twelve-tone row played on the viola, and concludes with a long viola solo in the high register. The work also requires the players to tap on the bodies of their instruments with their bows at several points; such techniques had become almost commonplace in the West by this time, but were not typically used in Soviet music of this period.

Quartet
No.14 in F sharp major Op.142

Dmitri Shostakovich's String Quartet No. 14 in F-sharp major, op. 142, was composed in 1972-73. It is dedicated to Sergei Shirinsky, the cellist of the Beethoven Quartet, the ensemble that premiered most of Shostakovich's quartets.Shostakovich began working on the piece while he was visiting the home of Benjamin Britten and finished it in Copenhagen.

Quartet
No.15 in E flat minor Op.144

The String Quartet No. 15 in E-flat minor (op. 144) was Dmitri Shostakovich's last quartet. It was completed on 17 May 1974 and premiered in Leningrad by the Taneiev Quartet on 15 November (one of only two Shostakovich quartets not premiered by the Beethoven Quartet). Like most of the composer's late works, it is an introspective meditation on mortality.Shostakovich told the Beethoven Quartet to play the first movement "so that flies drop dead in mid-air, and the audience start leaving the hall from sheer boredom".An original recording of the quartet performed by the Fitzwilliam Quartet (backed with Shostakovich's String Quartet No. 8 in C minor) was released on Decca in 1976. Shostakovich supervised the production.

Shostakovich told life story that was at big part of Russian
History; a story of pain, pride, love and hope —
a story which should not be interrupted.
People do not put down fascinating book.
People continue to read it to the end.
In the same way, one could listen to Shostakovich’s
‘15 quartets’ cycle straight through to the end.
02
Jun

Reykjavik, Iceland

Reykjavik Arts Festival Harpa Concert Hall
10.00—22.00
01
Sep

Wissembourg, France

Wissembourg International Festival 10.00—22.00
07
Dec

Niigata, Japan

Shostakovich Marathon Concert Ryutopia, Niigata-City Performing Arts Center
01
Dec

Tokyo, Japan

Shostakovich Marathon Concert Musashino Cultural Center
Will be available soon
18
Apr

Hamburg, Germany

Shostakovich Marathon Concert Laeiszhalle Hamburg
Download
program

(5Mb)

For a long time, we’ve imagined what it would be like for listeners to hear all 15 Shostakovich quartets in one day. Today’s touring ensembles rarely have more than a few Shostakovich quartets in their repertoire during any given season. Therefore when they offer “the cycle”, the concerts are usually spread out over a relatively long period of time. And yes... then there’s the issue of endurance — for both the players and the audience alike.

When we decided to move forward with this huge undertaking, it was with the full knowledge that it is a daunting but exhilarating challenge for all who will share this amazing experience. Frankly, we are not entirely sure we could do this if we were in our 60s, as “experienced” as we would be by then.

So we offer the Shostakovich marathon now while we’re in our mid-30s, confident that we are young and strong enough to meet the physical, emotional, and psychological demands, yet at the same time fully respectful of what these monumental quartets represent — to the world, to our fellow Russians, and to our parents and grandparents whose blood is in our blood.

We hold a deep confidence that performing the cycle in one day will provide a truly unique and absolutely unforgettable opportunity to experience the full scope and brilliance of Shostakovich’s String Quartets. It requires six and a half hours to perform Shostakovich’s entire quartet cycle - an entire “lifetime” in a single day.

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