Via the magic of YouTube and other internet classical music sites, I’m going to try and post a new piece of classical music up here every Friday. The playing may be so-so, but it’s free, and you’ll get to hear what the music sounds like. All music used in this column will be copyright-free, 100% legit.
First up is Shostakovich’s unparalleled Eighth String Quartet. This one Shostakovich dedicated to the victims of war and fascism, and once you listen to it you’ll know why. It’s an incredibly dolorous, mournsome piece of music. The excerpt I’ve found includes the first and second movements, which is good because it’s in the second movement that this thing really starts to fly. You simply must hear this to believe it.
It’s best to let the music speak for itself, but a few words. The first movement is slow, opening with foreboding sounds. It’s contemplative, as though you’re standing amidst a blackened field surveying the destruction. Shostakovich uses long strips of sound, and only occasionally do the strings exert enough energy to hop around from note to note.
The first movement ends with an extended, drawn out chord which also provides the entrance into the second movement. I can only describe movement two as demonic. Each instument does its shrill little own thing (and here the video is actually an asset–it’s something to watch each performer playing independent of her counterparts, yet to hear the sound fuse together so thoroughly). After about a minute they all come together in a climax and then things just lose all sense.
If you like what you hear, than I absolutely recommend the recording made by the Borodin Quartet. Hands down, this is the best recording I’ve ever heard ofShostakovich’s Eighth Quartet. Plus, you get the 2nd, 12th, 7th, and 3rd, and it even comes in at a low price (this double CD costs less than many singles). Don’t let the price fool you, though, it’d be a value at twice the price.