Shostakovich – String Quartet No.1

Dmitri Shostakovich began writing his first string quartet in 1938, completing it in just six weeks not long before his thirty second birthday. Despite the impact that quartet form would appear to have had on Shostakovich as a youth, and surprisingly given his later use of the form as a major form of personal expression late in life, it appears he approached his first quartet with little expectation. He talked of how he set out with “no special ideas or feeling” and that he thought “nothing would come of it” and saw the work as an exercise that he didn’t see himself completing. He however found himself completing the quartet quickly and despite reportedly describing the work as “joyful, merry and lyrical” but lacking “any special depth” the first string quartet is an accomplished work that sets an early standard that Shostakovich was able to move on from. At around only fifteen minutes in total length the problem with the first quartet to my ears could well be its brevity.