Shostakovich - String Quartet No. 8, Op. 110: movement I

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A: bar 0-27 (could be said that bars 1-11 are just an introduction) each of the first three sections concludes with a clear reference to the DSCH motto theme.

concerned with contrapuntal exploration of DSCH. Tonal ambiguity characterises this section

B: bar 28-49

texturally differentiated through melody dominated homophony

C: bar 50-86

two-part counterpoint differentiates this section

B1: bar 87-104

chromatic theme from bar 28 is reversed to the cello in bar 87

A1: bar 104-126

return of music from bar 11-21

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Melody

DSCH

  • indicative of Shostakovich's autobiographical intent - pitches are derived from the German spelling of the composer's name D-Eb (pronounced 'S')-C-H (German equivalent of B natural)
  • DSCH motto theme is manipulated throughout creating sense of structural cohesion and unity
  • first heard monophonically in the cello: bar 1
  • treated in imitative counterpoint: bars 1-10
  • heard in octaves between violin 1 and violin 2: bar 11
  • rhythmically augmented: bar 79
  • semitone interval of DSCH utilised in a new, chromatic motif: bar 28

appoggiatura: bar 30

melodic quotations from pre-existing compositions such as Shostakovich's First Symphony: bar 17-19

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Harmony

C minor tonality (not used structurally only for colour)

very bleak harmony - omitting 3rd from chord I: bar 26

triadic movement helps signify tonal nature of the work, outlining C minor triad: bar 12

highly chromatic, by bar 7 all 12 semitones of the chromatic scale have been sounded

utilises the interval of a tritone: bar 55

G major: bar 79

Eb minor: bar 80

F major: bar 81

obscured perfect cadence: bar 25

tonic and dominant drones lasting more than 17 bars: bar 28

perfect cadence: bar 120-123

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Instrumentation

string quartet - violin 1, violin 2, viola, cello

no special idiomatic effects such as pizzicato or tremolo

narrow ranges, exploiting the low tessitura of each instrument and utilising the open bottom string of each

fairly limited range in dynamics - mostly quiet but homophonic statements of DSCH are mezzo forte: bar 23

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Texture

used as a structurally defining tool

section A begins with monophonic statement of DSCH (cello) and section A is concerned with contrapuntal exploration of DSCH and is almost fugal-like in its nature through the imitative counterpoint: bar 1-11

section B is structurally differentiated through melody-dominated homophony with tonic and dominant pedals beneath: bar 28

section C is predominantly in two-part counterpoint: bar 50

inverted pedal: bar 110

tonic and dominant drones: bar 28-45

homorhythm: bar 79-81

Parallelism: bar 11-12

homophonic statements of DSCH motto theme help to mark the end of sections: bar 23-25

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Rhythm

slow tempo (adds to solemnity and dark tone)

simple, quadruple metre

simple, rhythmic note values - mostly crotchets and minims: first few bars

extremely long rhythms seen through pedal notes and drones and semibreves: bar 79-81

dotted rhythms do add some rhythmic interest: bar 17

syncopation: bar 24-25

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