String Quartet No. 3 (Shostakovich)

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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.


The quartet has five movements:

  1. Allegretto
  2. Moderato con moto
  3. Allegro non troppo
  4. Adagio
  5. Moderato

Playing time is approximately 33 minutes.

For the premiere, most likely so that he would not be accused of "formalism" or "elitism," Shostakovich renamed the movements in the manner of a war story:

  1. Blithe ignorance of the future cataclysm
  2. Rumblings of unrest and anticipation
  3. Forces of war unleashed
  4. In memory of the dead
  5. The eternal question: Why? And for what?

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.

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