Shostakovich Quartet 8

April 7, 2004 at 04:46 AM · it is my new love :)

i saw LA phil play it a coupla nights ago along with shosta 8 and beethoven's 3rd piano concerto. Has anyone ever played shosta's 8th quartet? how difficult is it?

Replies (50)

April 7, 2004 at 05:26 AM · Shosty 8 is not very difficult technically speaking. A few challenges for the 1st Violinist, especially the 2nd movement. But musically is one challenging work. The big challenge is telling a story with its music. Read about it, how was written, for what purpose and then listen to a few other groups playing it. Only after that try to learn it and play it so it can thell a story. Great piece!

April 7, 2004 at 05:32 AM · yeah it was dedicated to the victims of stalin's reign. It starts with his shortened german name (DSCH and D Eb C B in western notation)

as the 4 note theme (also in his 10th symphony), and then the 4th movement is suppost to represent the "knocking" at the door that you could expect any time in russia by stalin's police. in russia many looked at beethovens fifth theme with this "knocking" interpretation.

well thats about all i matter the interpretation/story - its brilliant music from a one of a kind genius composer

April 7, 2004 at 08:41 AM · Yes...this quartet is's a tad weird....but it's something I so enjoy listening to.

April 7, 2004 at 09:33 AM · If you like his motto theme, you may also try his e minor piano trio, which comes with the very same theme in the finale, just in a different tempo and manner.

April 7, 2004 at 10:41 AM · Dan, Shostakovitch is reported to have called the 8th 4tet his most autobiographical work. Incidentally, the work is "officially" dedicated to "the victims of fascism and war", though there is an interesting story about that dedication in Volkov's "Testimony". Supposedly, at the premiere, the MC introduced the eighth quartet as being dedicated to the victims of NAZI fascism. At which point Shostakovitch is supposed to have jumped up and agitatedly called out that this was not true. The quartet, he is supposed to have said, was dedicated to the victims of ALL fascism. (Naturally, openly saying this was a memorial to Stalin's victims was literal suicide back then.)

As for autobiographical elements other than the coding of his name in every movement and the "knock" motif, you can have a bit of profitable fun finding all sorts of other self-quotes in the work. Without being in any way exhaustive, here's a short list of his own works which he quotes at various points. See if you can find these, and other self-references: "Lady Macbeth", the cello concerto, the e minor piano trio...

April 7, 2004 at 02:26 PM · It is an amazing work! I've heard it performed live three times and I never get bored of it. It's been really interesting to have heard the work performed each time with knowing the background on the work. I always listen for those signature bits, (the cello concerto, piano trio and so on) and there has always been something about this work that just gets you thinking. It was hearing this string quartet that made me want to write an essay on Shostakovich and the kinds of effects his music had upon the listener, and what it meant to write music like he did, living in Russia at the time he did.

April 7, 2004 at 03:12 PM · ive played it. i thought it was difficult, in terms of being with the other players...its easy to fall apart.

April 7, 2004 at 03:43 PM · I was just putting together an order of sheet music - all string quartets- as a birthday present FROM my mother (gotta love those carte blanche presents)... & Shosty #8 was one of them.

April 7, 2004 at 06:08 PM · I LOVE THIS STRING QUARTET. I downloaded a piece of the first and second movements on an online file-sharing thing and the scherzo movements is perfectly shostakovich. I absolutely love this movement. There is also a chilling part in the first movement--when the low strings drone and the violin plays on top a weeping melody with (at least in my recording) no vibrato.

April 7, 2004 at 08:23 PM · I love this quartet, too. It's so haunting and so evocative. I was quite obsessed with it for a while! I used to listen to it when I was jogging - the parts where it really sounds like you're being chased by the KGB are quite motivating : )

April 7, 2004 at 08:36 PM · I wouldn't call it "lovely", because it is just not the right word for it... it's difficult in many ways...

SOmeone said that it is not very difficult technically speaking... - - if this quartett, technically speaking, not very difficult for you than you are probably Borodin quartet ??

Sometimes i just wondering how musicians carelessly talk about music and feels it in wrong direction...

April 8, 2004 at 02:18 AM · my favorite part is in the forth mvt, when the cello has a solo in the higher register...i just want to weeeep

April 8, 2004 at 04:23 PM · lol, cora u are too funny. lol.

April 9, 2004 at 08:04 AM · Anatoly, you just need to practice more. Then, it won't be as difficult technically as you think it is. And no, I am not the Borodin String Quartet but I have performed it several times and I speak from my own experience. I thought this thread is about sharing our own experiences, not about comparing ourselves to others...


April 10, 2004 at 06:32 PM · It's not about how fast your fingers are going. How stupid you should be to understand me in such a banal way. And i'm stupid that waisting my time with such a people...

April 10, 2004 at 07:52 PM · calm down... I think when ppl mention "technically", they really mean... technically as in fingering etc... not musically... honestly this quartet isn't really technically hard, if u look at sho's violin concerto or so... it's different from talking about the "ensemble-ship" and the musical side in the piece.

it's just a forum to talk about personal opinion, no need to use those harsh words, as in the word stupid and "waisting" ur time...

April 10, 2004 at 08:35 PM · Good lord, Sevciuk, are you really this rude, arrogant and socially inept in person? Do find some other board to bother, won't you?

For what it's worth, you yourself brought up the technical - note, NOT the musical - difficulties in the 8th 4tet. And the response was correct: the 8th 4tet is not technically demanding. As for its musical content, I am convinced that to play it with even a modicum of understanding one must be a decent human being, unable to stomach the sort of misanthropy which you have demonstrated on this board time and again.

April 11, 2004 at 09:19 AM ·

April 11, 2004 at 09:19 AM ·

April 10, 2004 at 09:01 PM · And I know that you are ill-mannered, ill-spoken, ill-educated, and that your musical opinions tend towards the absolutist extremes. Given the rest of your poor upbringing, you almost always end up choosing the wrong extreme, too. I'm proud to call myself a Russian, but if you are a representative of what Russia is producing these days, I would far rather be thought an American. Your level of boorishness does a disservice to an entire national identity.

I know a great many Russian musicians, from Shostakovitch compositional disciples to world-renowned violinists, from the most autocratic conductors to the most laissez-faire ones, and I have NEVER, EVER seen one who has such a complete inability to expres themselves without hostility and, yes, stupidity shining out like the Alexandria lighthouse. It would still be unforgivable if you were right about things even some of the time, but to be as absolutely socially revolting as you are and to be so musically closed-minded and misguided is a true travesty.

April 10, 2004 at 09:20 PM · Anatoly, I think it's unfair for you to judge everyone on this board as a bunch of idiots when you don't know of any of us personally. As people have said, technically speaking, the Shostakovich 8th quartet is not difficult, but the musicality and ability to put your mind and soul into the situations and circumstances surrounding this composition when it was written is beyond most any younger player these days, making the ability to perform this quartet musicaly from an individual standpoint extremely difficult. Ensemble-ship is another extremely difficult thing in this quartet as the piece does have many tempo and mood changes, and the entire work is performed attaca, so the ensemble really has to flow as one unit to be able to portray the message given.

Anatoly, can you please be more considerate of people in the future and try to not make un-informed comments or judgements about works or people on the board, it's fine if for where you are at in your musical studies that you find a particular work hard, but then think about how you want to word your post with making refrence that it to you, personally presents a technical challenge.

April 10, 2004 at 10:19 PM · Why do Shostakovich threads always seem to end up with such hostility?

This quartet is one of my favourite Shostakovich works.


April 11, 2004 at 12:04 AM · anyway...

I've just had a chance to listen to his 5 pieces for 2 violins and piano, the prelude is sooooo sweet. =)

actually each of the 5 is very unique.

April 11, 2004 at 02:35 AM · -mental note to remember never to insult Emil-

April 11, 2004 at 05:28 AM · lol

April 11, 2004 at 05:29 AM · Anatoly writes:

"It's not about how fast your fingers are going. How stupid you should be to understand me in such a banal way. And i'm stupid that waisting my time with such a people... "

You know what, Anatoly, you need to grow up. Thinking that you're above anyone, and especially anyone on this forum, is the biggest mistake you've made. Do not underestimate the experience, musicianship of many people here on this board or anywhere in the music world. You might learn something from one or all of them. In my experience as a College teacher (Violin and Viola) I have never seen such an attitude. You do need to re-evaluate what music means to you and what you can do for it, not the other way around.

If you think we are too "stupid... to understand" you, then by all means, seek other forums and advice. Meanwhile, we will enjoy sharing our experiences and ideas here.

Good luck to you!

Dumitru Lazarescu

Assistant Principal 2nd Violin, Phoenix Symphony Orchestra.

April 11, 2004 at 06:12 AM · I think Anatoly just likes to pick fights with people. A good aggressive young child.

April 11, 2004 at 09:21 AM · I know, Emil, that you know many many great people. Good for you. But i don't care about who you know. I would like to know why do you think that 8-th quartet is not difficult technically (and everyone knows, i guess, that technique means both right and left hands). making sound is also knd of technique, isn't it?

I do not put myself above, but if people are saying kind of absurds, than sorry...

I'm proud that Emil is calling himself russian, that is good, but i prefer to call Russian person who lived in Russia for more than 15 years... nationality doesn't matter here.

And of course i read some posts time to time and don't find anything more than absurds like "how do you need to hold your bow", or etc.. It's stupid because it's stupid.

Bye bye, my American friends

April 11, 2004 at 10:56 AM · if, as u said, u find other ppl asking "stupid" questions, then get off here and find urself an ideal forum, in which ppl will praise u as their GOD, moron.

even if those questions or topics sound "stupid" to you, there's still no reason u can insult ppl like this. if u dun like the topics, just skip it on. It is not a forum ONLY for professional violinists, when ppl ask whatever question, they have their reasons. if u dun like, go away.

as other ppl have said, do some practice for god sake! Technically speaking, what do u find it difficult in this piece, in terms of difficulty in left & right hand? 3/5 of the piece is slow, the other 2/5 are extremely straight forward.

so far u have done/said nothing apart from insulting ppl, why don't u tell us what do u find it difficult then?

grow up!

April 11, 2004 at 01:30 PM · Get lost Anatoly. Your postings don't dignify any kind of sensible response - you're just a fool who has nothing better to do in life than assert aggression on people you don't know.


April 11, 2004 at 01:36 PM · Calm down people...we want this to be a friendly, helpful forum...not a boxing ring.

April 11, 2004 at 02:16 PM · true, nevertheless that's still his opinion, just a bit harsh...

April 11, 2004 at 03:14 PM · Anyone ever notice how Shostakovich threads seem to end in a dissagrement or argument..?

April 11, 2004 at 04:04 PM · Kenny writes:

"true, nevertheless that's still his opinion, just a bit harsh... "

I have no problem with anyone's opinion as long as is somewhat respectful. We can disagree but we need to respect each other at the same time.

April 11, 2004 at 03:54 PM · I'll try to keep this as short as I can, Anatoly, but I'm afraid I've rather a lot to say to you.

1) I mention the people I know not in order to scare or intimidate you (or anyone else) but to point out the standard of polite behavior which these masters of their craft embody. Someone once said that "punctuality is the politeness of princes." You would do well to remember that politeness itself is also evidence of those truly noble of spirit. If one is a master, unprovoked rudeness and dismissal of apprentices only shows neurasthenia and insecurity. And if one is not a master, arrogance and put-downs will not raise one's stature one iota.

2) Your opinions on music have always been welcome on this board and I, for one, never considered them stupid even when I considered them wrong. It is when you insult, especially when you insult consciously and intentionally, that the blank spots in your own knowledge make you look twice a fool: once for the insult you offer, and again for the ignorance you show which, prior to the offence, might have gone unnoticed as a mere difference of opinion.

3) There is no such thing as an absurd or stupid question. Ever. The only true stupidity is complacency in ignorance. Questions, however seemingly fundamental, show the questioner's awareness of what he does not know and no awareness of anything is ever preferrable to oblivion, nor to a fear of how one will be perceived. All human knowledge, in every single sphere of activity, advanced because somewhere, some "blazhenniy" asked a deceptively simple, or even seemingly foolish question. It is from a "stupid" man, sitting quietly at home and wondering why the escaping steam in the tea kettle whistled and lifted the kettle-flap that we got the steam engine. It is from a "stupid" man asking himself the "idiotic" question of what he'd see if he took a ride on a beam of light that we got the theory of relativity. It is from a "stupid" man asking himself whether the violin could be a self-sufficient, polyphonic instrument that we got the Bach Sonatas and Partitas. And it is through a "stupid" man asking himself whether consistent technical impeccability was necessarily impossible that we got Jascha Heifetz. No one created something completely new without questioning the seemingly self-evident.

4) Remember that this forum is open to all, pros and amateurs, concert soloists and beginners. Rest assured that you know less than the former, yet they would not sneer at you for asking they share their knowledge. Do the latter the courtesy of the same. And always remember that you too, once upon a time, were a beginner and had to have such "stupid" questions as "how do I hold the bow" answered. Why are current beginners not entitled to find out the same things?

5) If you're using the word "American" as an epithet equivalent to "ignorant", you should be aware that this is gross generalization and stereotyping. And you should further be aware that it is precisely such stereotyping that INEVITABLY leads to the very fascism - whether political or philosophical - which Shostakovitch, and every great creator in human history, despised. Ask yourself how you'd feel if people called you a "Russian" and intended it to mean "backward, ignorant, boorish alcoholic."

6) The 8th 4tet is not technically difficult because the issues of tone production which it raises do not come up beyond an average level. For example, the 2nd movmt. of Prokofiev's second violin concerto, or the second movmt. of the Barber concerto are not technically demanding in the left hand, but extremely demanding in the right since they call for sustaining notes for extreme lengths and even for crescendi on those notes. They demand, in short, more than basic technical control of tone production. Shostakovitch does not. There is not one note in any part which cannot be comfortably sustained or during which an unobtrusive bow change would significantly impact the composer's intentions.

Of course the 4tet demands some technical mastery in order to make it musically expressive, but then again so does EVERY piece of music. No work's full expressiveness is within the reach of a complete beginner on the violin any more than fully expressing oneself by writing a novel in a Russian is available to a first-year student of the language who is still learning the Cyrillic alphabet. But given a basic, fundamental level of technical mastery of the violin at even a pre-conservatory level, the Shostakovitch does not demand extraordinary control of either hand in order to be able to express what the piece is all about.

April 11, 2004 at 05:21 PM · Thank you , Emil. However i think that it is difficult quartet technically. Isn't intonation and dgood control of dynamix is part of technique? I realized that you didn't get me quite right. Probably because of my primitive English. I will stop arguing, because really can not express myself in full when speak English and that makes me angry on myself a bit. But i feel sorry for myself. I feel shame for such an extremly evil behaviour without any reasons. I should also say that many things i wrote here at the moment of agressivenes and under the control of alcohol. Sorry and hope that we would find the "same language" without any serious misunderstandings in the future.

April 11, 2004 at 05:45 PM · Meanwhile, 25 postings later...I hope the students that read the discussions on this board have not been scared off from asking "stupid" questions about their bow-holds..I only wish this resource for information had been available to me back when I was studying.

April 11, 2004 at 06:33 PM · my longest post ever

April 11, 2004 at 06:34 PM · except half of it has been argueing with kakoyta ruski pider and not about our mutual love for shostokovich

April 11, 2004 at 06:57 PM · Thank you Dan... YOu have all the rights to keep some kind of anger on me. But it would be much more intelligent if you would not...

If this (you ment me, i guess...) "kakoy to russki pider" was behaving like a idiot, but he understands that he was acting like an idiot, is he really an idiot, then?

April 11, 2004 at 07:36 PM · Perhaps he was, but perhaps he is wiser for it.


April 11, 2004 at 08:02 PM · (Dan, you're up to 43 now after this post) :)

Re: the comment "But it would be much more *intelligent* if you would not..."

I would say *gracious* would have been a better choice of word to use in that sentence.

Anatoly, based on explanations from your previous postings you may be dealing with a language barrier still, so may I offer a suggestion? Eliminate the use of adjectives such as "intelligent", "idiot", and "stupid" from your postings and you will fare much better in your attempts to communicate without offending.

April 11, 2004 at 09:00 PM · "I should also say that many things i wrote here at the moment of agressivenes and under the control of alcohol.

Is it time to merge this thread and the one about pre-concert tipple?!

April 11, 2004 at 09:18 PM · it sounds like it's going somewhere else other than Sho' 8th 4tet...

April 11, 2004 at 08:57 PM · All right, I'm going to make everyone take a breatholizer test before they post. And pass out bumper stickers that say, "Don't drink and post!"

Let's keep in mind that different things are difficult for different people. For example, lately I find it more difficult to perform something "easy" for people because of nerves than I find it to perform something "technically difficult" that commands my whole attention, leaving no room for nerves.

I imagine that tone production is more difficult for some than for others. It's necessarily subjective. It depends on what kind of instrument you have and your natural strengths and weaknesses.

It's not easy to admit something is difficult to play, so let's not jump too hard on people who admit that and say, "No, objectively, it's not hard!"

Let's strive for a tolerant dialogue between all of us.

April 11, 2004 at 09:35 PM · This is a huge missunderstanding. Like outside looker at this topic I should say it's not worth to consume your energy protecting your reputation and criticize others. You all have right, some of you totally and others, in their ways. A. Sevciuk, you are very right, intonation and sound ARE technicall problems, but maybe the "fight" started when the most of us consider the sound an artistic problem. Well, that's one of the points when music and mecanic go together. I don't thinck those kind of polemics should exist in a board with musicians, because they go so far-they get to personal insulting. It is not the first discussion that gets to personal insulting-remember, E. Chudnovsky, the conflict with Amateur for the intonation of Kreisler? I hope it will pass as quickly as it passed then. It is not normal. And it is nobody's fault, just that the persons implied fealt they where insulted and lost a little control. Don't fight anymore...( it sounds like a peace mesage, but that would be better!)

April 11, 2004 at 10:31 PM · Anatoly writes:

"I realized that you didn't get me quite right. Probably because of my primitive English. I will stop arguing, because really can not express myself in full when speak English and that makes me angry on myself a bit. But i feel sorry for myself. I feel shame for such an extremly evil behaviour without any reasons. "

OK, Anatoly. We'll bury the hatchet. I understand your frustration with not mastering the language, been there and done that myself. I think it's time for all of us to move forward and be all friends again. What do you say?

April 12, 2004 at 12:12 AM · Yea, c'mon! It's Easter!! ;D (No offense if any of you aren't Christian, just... holiday spirit! Whoohooo!)

April 12, 2004 at 12:28 AM · Greetings,

now you have gone and reminded me of my dead bunny,

Cheers (not),


September 15, 2007 at 08:24 AM · "I used to listen to it when I was jogging - the parts where it really sounds like you're being chased by the KGB are quite motivating : ) "


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