When it was first performed in October 1960, Shostakovich's Eighth String Quartet was greeted with a standing ovation and given a full encore. Its popularity has continued to the present day with over a hundred commercial recordings appearing during the last 40 years. The appeal of the work is not hard to identify; immediately communicative, the quartet also contains rich seams of deeper meaning. This book is the first to examine its musical design in detail and seeks to overthrow the charges of superficiality that have arisen as a result of the work's popular success. The core of this study is the close analysis of the work, but this is placed in context with a discussion of Shostakovich's reputation and historical position, the circumstances of the quartet's composition and the subsequent controversies that have surrounded it. The work was composed during the so-called 'Thaw' years of the Soviet Union, and the cultural and political backgrounds of this period are considered, together with Shostakovich's life and work during this time. David Fanning argues persuasively that the Eighth String Quartet is a landmark in twentieth-century music in its transcendence of the extra-musical meanings that it invokes; that it is 'music that liberates itself from the shackles of its context'. The book features an accompanying CD of the work.
David Fanning is Professor at Manchester University Music Department, where he also studied. He has pursued a combined career as scholar, performer, broadcaster and journalist. Prof. Fanning is an authority on Russian and Scandinavian music, with two books on Shostakovich (The Breath of the Symphonist, RMA Monograph, 1998, and, as contributor-editor, Shostakovich Studies, CUP, 1995) and numerous articles and chapters in edited books.
Contents: Introduction; Placing Shostakovich and the Eighth Quartet; The Soviet Union, Soviet music and Shostakovich in the 'Thaw' years; The Eighth Quartet: an analysis; Appendixes; Bibliography; Index.