String Quartet No. 11
Leningrad. Glinka Small Hall of the Conservatoire. On June 6th the String Quartet was performed in Moscow in the Small Hall of the Conservatoire by the Beethoven Quartet.
1967. Score, “Sovietsky kompozitor” Publishers, Moscow.
Archive of the composer’s family.
Dedicated: “To the Memory of Vasilii Petrovich Shirinsky”
String Quartet No.11
I. Introduction. Andantino
II. Scherzo. Allegretto
III. Recitative. Adagio
IV. Étude. Allegro
V. Humoresque. Allegro
VI. Elegy. Adagio
VII. Conclusion. Moderato
The Eleventh String Quartet is dedicated to the memory of Beethoven Quartet violinist Vasili Shirinsky (4/17 January 1901-16 August 1965). A versatile musician - violinist, conductor, teacher (professor at the Moscow Conservatory) V. P. Shirinsky (1901-1965) was one of the founders and, until the end of his days, a permanent participant in the Beethoven Quartet. The composition occupied an important place in Shirinsky’s creative life: he graduated from the conservatory not only as a performer, but also as a composer (in the class of N. Myaskovsky). Quartet was completed on 30 January 1966 (the date of the beginning of work on the quartet is not given in the author’s manuscripts).
Eleventh is one of Shostakovich’s most intimate lyrical chamber works. Seven small parts form a closed sequence resembling not a sonata cycle, but a suite. At the same time, the music of the quartet is marked by internal significance, short, laconic parts resemble restrained speech in memory of a friend.
The composition consists of seven short movements with genre subheadings, played attacca: 1. Introduction, Andantino; 2. Scherzo, Allegretto; 3. Recitative, Adagio; 4. Étude, Allegro; 5. Humoresque, Allegro; 6. Elegy, Adagio and 7. Finale, Moderato. The finale, as in most of Shostakovich’s chamber cycles, is noticeably longer than any of the preceding movements and contains reminiscences of their most characteristic and memorable themes and motifs.
Reviewers have noted such features of the Eleventh Quartet as the sparseness of texture and the predominance of quiet dynamics, which is unusual in Shostakovich’s previous chamber music, as well as the close structural relationship between the various themes (which makes it possible to interpret the whole, although with some reserve, not so much as a suite of multi-genre movements, but as a sonata form, with the Introduction and Scherzo acting as the exposition and the four middle sections and Finale as the development and the recapitulation, respectively) and the predominant elegiac tone. Sometimes the Eleventh Quartet is thought to be similar to the Seventh, which is also dedicated to the memory of a loved one (Nina Varzar). However, in the Eleventh Quartet, according to one reviewer, “the fear and terror of death [have] sounded more naked and condensed”. Authors who are not inclined to give the quartet an overly dramatic interpretation note how “the music moves from brooding grief to sorrowful enlightenment”. They stress the “elegance of the language used to express mournful chants and sad melodies”. Based on the nature of the music, they attempt to reconstruct the image of the recipient of the dedication as “a man of mercurial moods, endearing, with a dry, engaging sense of humour”. Some of Shostakovich’s well-known biographies pay essentially no attention to the Eleventh Quartet. It is fair to say that this relatively modest work, in terms of its “external attributes”, is overshadowed by Shostakovich’s much larger chamber instrumental scores.
The premiere of the Eleventh Quartet was performed by the Beethoven Quartet with a renewed line-up featuring Dmitri Tsyganov, Nikolay Zabavnikov, Fedor Druzhinin and Sergey Shirinsky on 28 May 1966 in the Small Glinka Hall (Leningrad) at Shostakovich’s recital. According to Galina Vishnevskaya’s recollections, “...the concert was brilliant and a tremendous success. Never before or since had I seen Shostakovich so unexpectedly exuberant and joyfully excited. ...The same night he had a heart attack and spent several months in hospital.”
The Moscow premiere of the Eleventh Quartet took place on 6 June 1966 at the Small Hall of the Moscow Conservatory; on the same evening, the Quintet for Piano and Strings, Op. 57, and the Fourth Quartet, Op. 83, were also performed. The Eleventh Quartet was an “outstanding success” and was encored in its entirety.
The first studio recordings of the Eleventh Quartet were made for Melodiya by the Borodin Quartet (1967) and the Beethoven Quartet (1969, with the same musicians as at the premiere).
- Borodin Quartet: Dubinsky R.D., Aleksandrov Y.P., Shebalin D.V., Berlinsky V.A. 1967 // Shinsekai SMK-7539,
- Borodin Quartet: Dubinsky R.D., Aleksandrov Y.P., Shebalin D.V., Berlinsky V.A. 1967 // Melodia C 01459-60, 1967
- Borodin Quartet: Kopelman M., Abramenkov A., Shebalin D.V., Berlinsky V.A. 1981 // Melodia C 10-17579-80, 1982
- Beethoven Quartet: Tsyganov D.M., Zabavnikov N., Druzhinin F.S., Shirinsky S.P. 1969 // EMI 061-91298,
- Beethoven Quartet: Tsyganov D.M., Zabavnikov N., Druzhinin F.S., Shirinsky S.P. 1969 // Melodia C 01769-70, 1971
- Beethoven Quartet: Tsyganov D.M., Zabavnikov N., Druzhinin F.S., Shirinsky S.P. 1969 // Melodia D 025115-16, 1971
- Beethoven Quartet: Tsyganov D.M., Zabavnikov N., Druzhinin F.S., Shirinsky S.P. 1969 // Shinsekai SMK-7609, 1972 (?)
- Borodin Quartet: Dubinsky R.D., Aleksandrov Y.P., Shebalin D.V., Berlinsky V.A. 1967 // Melodia Seraphim SIC-6035, 1967-1968
- Borodin Quartet: Dubinsky R.D., Aleksandrov Y.P., Shebalin D.V., Berlinsky V.A. 1967 // Melodia Eurodisc 76 649 XK, 76 647,
- Borodin Quartet: Dubinsky R.D., Aleksandrov Y.P., Shebalin D.V., Berlinsky V.A. 1967 // Melodia MG 087129, D-019520, 1967
- Borodin Quartet: Kopelman M., Abramenkov A., Shebalin D.V., Berlinsky V.A. 1981 // HMV Melodia EX 270339 E 2703441, 1986
- Coull String Quartet: Cole R., Galloway F., Curtis D., Todd D. 1988 // ASV CD DCA 631, 1989
- Hagen Quartett: Hagen K., Hagen L., Schmidt R., Hagen W. 1994 // Deutsche Grammophon 445 864-2 GH, 1995
- Brodsky Quartet: Thomas M., Belton I., Cassidy P., Thomas J. 1989 // TELDEC 9031-71702-2, 1990
- Fine Arts Quartet: Evans R., Boyko E., Horner D., Laufer W. 1989 // ADES 14.161-2, 1989
- Fitzwilliam Quartet: C. Rowland, J. Spary, A. George, I. Davis. 1976 // LONDON 455 781-2 (Set 455 776-2), 1998
- Shostakovich Quartet: Shishlov A.A., Pishchugin S., Galkovsky A.V., Korchagin A.A. 1984 // OLYMPIA OCD 534, 1994