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Category: Dmitri Shostakovich

Shostakovich’s String Quartet no 15, opus 144 (revisited)

on a day of commemoration, or at a moment even of
merely contemplation, perhaps it’s not a bad idea to
revisit Shostakovich’s String Quartet no 15, in E flat
minor, opus 144
, his flurry of mournful adagios, his
string of stately dirges, his penetrating meditation
on mortality

complete this time around, on one only site, though
just a short while ago indeed I said it wasn’t to be
found, March 28, 2012, again I was wrong

today it stood, perhaps not coincidentally, directly
before me as I clicked onto my list of music,
unadulterated, intact, complete, apart from an
irrtating audience member coughing at one point,
unforgivably, for marring so sincere an expression
of fervent string sounds, though only momentarily

by the “Filarmonica” Quartet, of Novosibirsk, Russia,
a city just north of Mongolia and Kazakhstan, the
players are not at all unimpressive

accompanying images are apparently of Russian
inspirational countryside nearby, and of
neighbouring Mongolia


Dmitri Shostakovich – String Quartet no 15, opus 144

several years ago when an angel I knew passed away
I read at his commemoration something I had written
for him, adagios, I said, always remind me of John

only a few days later, after I’d spoken, an adagio in
the distance was weaving its magic spell as I
abstractedly washed perennial dishes, a pivotal
spot, it would appear, for me, in my mystic
wanderings, my spiritual peregrinations

gradually I recognized the presence I’d apparently
inadvertently evoked with my unsuspecting but
thoughtful and caring script, opening a key, like
Ali Baba, it would transpire, to the very undiluted
infinite, something I’d wished for from my dad,
who’d died just a few months earlier, promising
me he’d speak to me if he could, though by then
I hadn’t yet heard from him

later when I was browsing for music to get into
to while away my pensive hours I happened upon
some Shostakovich in a nearby record store, I’d
recently been exploring his stuff, having reached
forward from the Romantics and even the
Impressionists, and looked to a relatively more
recent touch, the early Twentieth Century

which is to say the atonalists, Schoenberg, Berg,
Stravinsky and so forth, of which Shostakovich,
I would argue, has proven to be the most
significant voice, his music being that of a
desperate, nearly broken people enduring
the atrocities under Stalin

he is the most important composer of the
Twentieth Century, I think, along with Olivier
Messiaen, who survived a German prisoner of
war camp, two tough, even heroic, spirits

and here were not one, not two, not even three,
but six adagios in his 15th String Quartet, when
anything faster was too much for me to bear,
otherwise it would have to have been silence,
I was elated

I was not let down, Shostakovich’s 15th String
Quartet, opus 144, is a masterpiece, and helped
me through my rigorous Calvary with compassion,
grace, and ultimately golden hope, to health and

it is not an easy piece, you might find it
overwhelming, but it is the last word in adagios,
and for me it means the world, I couldn’t leave
it out

I found the distribution awkward however, I
haven’t found the quartet complete anywhere
on the Internet, you’ll have to access the movements
separately, pee breaks are therefore allowed, there
are six movements, not usual but we’ve seen
Beethoven do five already for his Sixth Symphony,
so not entirely unexpected

the first movement, Elegy (Adagio), is played by the
Rubio Quartet, but with only an image of war torn
Leningrad to inspire visually

the second, Serenade (Adagio), by the Borodin String
Quartet, perhaps Shostakovich’s best interpreters, are
also presented visuals inert

the third, fourth, and fifth – Intermezzo (Adagio),
Nocturne (Adagio), and Funeral March (Adagio molto)

in that order, are played live by the Shostakovich
Quartet, named of course in the composer’s honour

and the sixth, Epilogue (Adagio), again by the Borodin

may you be granted the poise and profound grace
of the adagio