Shostakovich, at the end

September 17, 2014

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.

2 Responses to “Shostakovich, at the end”


  1. One of my more memorable concert experiences, not that there have been many, was hearing his 8th symphony performed by an excellent college orchestra in a hall with extremely good acoustics. I haven’t heard anywhere near all the quartets or symphonies, and really would like to. Don’t know how you find all this listening time.

  2. cburrell Says:

    I’ve never heard one of Shostakovich’s symphonies live, but I’d like to. This listening project was done mostly in pieces on my lunch breaks. The pop music listening project is being done mostly on my commute home in the evenings.


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