Over the past few months I’ve been enjoying a big listening project — no, not that one. I’ve been listening to all of Shostakovich’s symphonies and string quartets, in chronological order. There are 15 of each, and they are both generally considered to be major contributions to their respective traditions. Certainly they are full of tremendously good music. I am more fond of the string quartets than of the symphonies, and this listening project hasn’t changed that, but I have gained a new appreciation for some of his symphonies, especially Nos. 7 and 14. I continue to hold Nos. 4, 5, and 10 in high regard.
The last piece in the survey is his devastating String Quartet No.15, written in 1974 while Shostakovich was in failing health and faltering spirits. I consider it to be one of the great masterpieces of the 20th century, and among the greatest string quartets ever written. Here is the Emerson String Quartet playing the final movement. Farewell, dear Shostakovich! Requiescat in pace.