Dmitri Shostakovich, “String Quartet No. 8 in C Minor, Op. 110, 2. Allegro Molto”
I think this performance is by the Emerson String Quartet, but I ripped it from a CD I owned ages and ages ago before reliable ripping and tagging programs. I also have a version of this by the Kronos Quartet, but I like this one better (I tend to have a bias towards versions heard first, because that’s what I get accustomed to and look for the little nuances in every version after…) But I legitimately like this one better, I think. It’s a little sharper and not as muted-sounding, a little more raw, a little crazier.
Shostakovich wrote the Eighth String Quartet in three days in 1960, after two awful things occurring in his life: his son was diagnosed with polio, and he was forced to join the Communist Party. He dedicated the piece to “the victims of fascism and war.” Lev Lebedinsky, a good friend of the composer’s, said that Shostakovich thought of the work as his epitaph and that he planned to commit suicide around this time. It contains the DSCH motif that was his signature, and a number of bits and pieces from his other works.
I really love this whole piece, but the second movement stands out to me. After the slow, crushing sadness of the first movement, this sounds like some kind of crazy Victorian chase music. Or insanity. You can hear the anxiety, I think.