"O for a Muse of fire..."
String Quartet N11 op.95 Serioso Ludwig van Beethoven
Allegro con brio
Allegretto ma non troppo
Allegro assai vivace ma serioso
String Quartet N3 op.73 Dmitri Shostakovich
Moderato con moto
Allegro non troppo
Sasha Callahan and Katherine Winterstein, violins
Alexander Vavilov, viola
Leo Eguchi, cello
Age and life experience did little to tame Beethoven’s fiercely inventive spirit. In fact if anything his experiments became progressively more daring and the results – tantalizing and sublime. Almost all quartets that he was to write after this one will be vast, expansive and broad, both in form and in content. However it seems that first he needed to find out how close he could get to the very essence of the string quartet, chopping off anything unnecessary and leaving only that which he couldn’t do without. Naturally this resulted in a concentrated and vibrant piece – one of his most dramatically charged quartets which, however, turns on a dime in the last minute and delivers a surprise upbeat ending.
The colossal tragedy of the Second World War had a peculiar effect of invigorating the cultural life in the Soviet Union. It was now officially permissible to create openly tragic and highly conflicting art! What it meant for Shostakovich is that after the forced silence and terror of the late 30’s, a time when many of his friends and relatives were imprisoned or executed by NKVD in an infamous wave of repressions, he was finally able to express himself directly. Written a year after the war officially ended this quartet is in the same vein as his other great war-time compositions, painting a vividly personal picture of an individual’s journey through a calamity of insurmountable proportions. However neither the tragic march of the slow movement nor the eerily ambiguous, evaporating finale that follows were seen as appropriate for a victorious nation. This quartet was censured shortly after the 1946 premiere. The War was over, the times were changing again and the great 1947 campaign against “formalism” in music has begun.