Music notes

Das Lied von der Erde

Das Lied von der Erde (“The Song of the Earth”) is an orchestral song cycle for two voices and orchestra written by Gustav Mahler between 1908 and 1909. Described as a symphony when published, it comprises six songs for two singers who alternate movements. Mahler specified that the two singers should be a tenor and an alto, or else a tenor and a baritone if an alto is not available.[1] Mahler composed this work following the most painful period in his life, and the songs address themes such as those of living, parting and salvation. On the centenary of Mahler’s birth, the composer and prominent Mahler conductor Leonard Bernstein described Das Lied von der Erde as Mahler’s “greatest symphony”.[2] As with his later Symphony No. 9, Mahler did not live to hear Das Lied von der Erde performed.

Das Lied von der Erde was last modified: June 25th, 2022 by Jovan Stosic

String Quartet No. 9 (Shostakovich)

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”.

String Quartet No. 9 (Shostakovich) was last modified: December 9th, 2020 by Jovan Stosic

Beethoven Quartet – Wikipedia

The Beethoven Quartet (Russian: Струнный квартет имени Бетховена, Strunnyĭ kvartet imeni Betkhovena) was a string quartetfounded between 1922 and 1923 by graduates of the Moscow Conservatory: violinists Dmitri Tsyganov and Vasily Shirinsky, violist Vadim Borisovsky and cellist Sergei Shirinsky (half brother of Vasily). In 1931 they changed their name from the Moscow Conservatory Quartet to the Beethoven Quartet. In the course of its fifty-year history, the Quartet performed more than six hundred works and recorded more than two hundred Russian and international classical works.

From 1938 it collaborated closely with the composer Dmitri Shostakovich and premiered thirteen of his fifteen string quartets, Nos. 2 through 14. He dedicated his third and fifth quartets to the Beethoven Quartet, while later quartets were dedicated individually to the members: Quartet No. 11 to the memory of Vasily Shirinsky, Quartet No. 12 to Tsyganov, Quartet No. 13 to Borisovsky, and Quartet No. 14 to Sergei Shirinsky. In addition to the string quartets, the Beethoven Quartet also premiered the Piano Quintet with the composer at the piano, and likewise the second piano trio with two of the Quartet’s players.

Fyodor Druzhinin took over from Borisovsky in 1964, giving a runthrough of the ninth quartet with the rest of the group. Sergei Shirinsky died during rehearsals of Shostakovich’s fifteenth quartet. In 1977, final founding member and first violinist Dmitri Tsyganov departed and was replaced by Oleh Krysa. The group disbanded in 1987.

Beethoven Quartet – Wikipedia was last modified: December 9th, 2020 by Jovan Stosic

String Quartet No. 8 (Shostakovich)

The piece was written shortly after Shostakovich reluctantly joined the Communist Party. According to the score, it is dedicated “to the victims of fascism and the war“; his son Maxim interprets this as a reference to the victims of all totalitarianism, while his daughter Galina says that he dedicated it to himself, and that the published dedication was imposed by the Russian authorities. Shostakovich’s friend, Lev Lebedinsky, said that Shostakovich thought of the work as his epitaph and that he planned to commit suicide around this time. Peter J. Rabinowitz has also pointed to covert references to Richard Strauss’s Metamorphosen in the Eighth Quartet.

The work was written in Dresden, where Shostakovich was to write music for the film Five Days, Five Nights, a joint project by Soviet and East German filmmakers about the bombing of Dresden in World War II.

The quartet was premiered in 1960 in Leningrad by the Beethoven Quartet. In the liner notes of the Borodin Quartet‘s 1962 recording, music critic Erik Smith writes, “The Borodin Quartet played this work to the composer at his Moscow home, hoping for his criticisms. But Shostakovich, overwhelmed by this beautiful realisation of his most personal feelings, buried his head in his hands and wept. When they had finished playing, the four musicians quietly packed up their instruments and stole out of the room.

String Quartet No. 8 (Shostakovich) was last modified: December 9th, 2020 by Jovan Stosic

The Beggar’s Opera

The Beggar’s Opera is a ballad opera in three acts written in 1728 by John Gay with music arranged by Johann Christoph Pepusch. It is one of the watershed plays in Augustan drama and is the only example of the once thriving genre of satirical ballad opera to remain popular today. Ballad operas were satiric musical plays that used some of the conventions of opera, but without recitative. The lyrics of the airs in the piece are set to popular broadsheet ballads, opera arias, church hymns and folk tunes of the time.

The Beggar’s Opera was last modified: February 15th, 2020 by Jovan Stosic

Ballad opera

The ballad opera is a genre of English stage entertainment that originated in the early 18th century, and continued to develop over the following century and later. Like the earlier comédie en vaudeville and the later Singspiel, its distinguishing characteristic is the use of tunes in a popular style (either pre-existing or newly composed) with spoken dialogue. These English plays were ‘operas‘ mainly insofar as they satirized the conventions of the imported opera seria. Music critic Peter Gammond describes the ballad opera as “an important step in the emancipation of both the musical stage and the popular song.”

Ballad opera was last modified: February 15th, 2020 by Jovan Stosic