Dmitri Shostakovich’s String Quartet No. 9 in E-flat major, Op. 117, was composed in 1964 and premiered by the Beethoven Quartet. The Ninth Quartet was dedicated to his third wife, Irina Antonovna Shostakovich, a young editor he married in 1962.
Shostakovich rarely changed or revised his works, but the Ninth Quartet is one of the rare exceptions. Elizabeth Wilson writes in her biography Shostakovich: A Life Remembered, “Shostakovich finished the first version of the Ninth Quartet in the autumn of 1961. In a fit of depression, or, to quote his own words, ‘in an attack of healthy self-criticism, I burnt it in the stove. This is the second such case in my creative practice. I once did a similar trick of burning my manuscripts, in 1926.
Shostakovich took three years to complete the new Ninth Quartet, finishing it on 28 May 1964. The premiere was by the Beethoven Quartet in Moscow on 20 November 1964. The Beethoven Quartet had the exclusive rights to perform all of Shostakovich’s string quartets. Dmitri Tsyganov, the first violinist, recalled that Shostakovich told him that the first Ninth Quartet was based on “themes from childhood”, and the newer Ninth Quartet was “completely different”.