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Shostakovich 8th String Quartet - Essay Example

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Who was Shostakovich" This is the question that makes the title of a magazine article by Richard Taruskin. And the first paragraph is a summary of the ways in which the Russian composer was seen: "To his fellow citizens he was a great artist and a patriot…
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Shostakovich 8th String Quartet
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Download file to see previous pages Born on September 25, 1906, into the family of an engineer, in St Petersburg, Shostakovich didn't appear to be, in his first years of childhood, as talented as he proved to be later on. But as his parents loved music very much and considered that it was necessary in the process of a child's education, Shostakovich the child received musical lessons. The young Shostakovich showed great interest in music and began studying it seriously, and more than just interpreting other composer's music, he started composing his own pieces of work.
As most of the great composers, Shostakovich spoke through his music. As for his personal life, he didn't like to show too much of it. "He was an intensely private person who guarded his personal life and feelings jealously. What all but a very few close friends and family members were permitted to experience of the man was the stiff faade of a civic-minded public servant and consummate music professional." (Fay, 2000 p.2) It's only after his death that the publication of memoirs, diaries, letters, revealed facts about him and his life, some of them controversial.
Christopher Norris (1984) shows that Shostakovich's performances of his own music reveal a great flexibility of tempi and the tendency to exaggerate the extremes of his metronome marks. The same source reveals the fact that the members of the Beethoven String Quartet were life-long friends of Shostakovich and this is what gives flexibility to their interpretation.
Norris emphasizes on the fact that there are many examples in Shostakovich's chamber music, of movements of unrelenting loudness. And he presents some of these examples: the second movements of the eighth and Tenth Quartets and the Violin Sonata, and most of the third movement of the Third Quartet.
Norris analyses in detail the String Quartets. When dealing with the eighth, he begins by showing that the composer is careful about the placing of accents and stresses. And he gives an example: "when the lower three instruments are intoning the revolutionary song "Tormented by the weight of bondage" fortissimo espressivo in octaves, the first violin's independent part has accents on every note to help the balance."(Norris, 1984 p.23)
The composer's commentator also remarks the conflict between dissonance and consonance and the task of the performer who must interpret the music using "the appropriate fingering, stress, balance, rubato and vibrato, to highlight the patterns of tension and release." (Norris, 1984 p.23) Norris admits that sometimes the consonance and dissonance are no more than the result of purely horizontal lineality, but he considers that most of the times, the context is deliberately tonal.
About Shostakovich's musical style, Martynov says: "AT A FIRST HEARING of Shostakovich's music one is struck by the remarkable facility of his style. So effortless is his manner of solving the most complex problems of composition that it would seem nothing is impossible to him. Few of his contemporaries can compare with him in this. Such creative ease, moreover, is a sure sign of great talent and consummate skill." (1947 p.154). He points out the fact that the Russian composer "worked with extraordinary facility and speed": "his String Quartet was written ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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