By Christopher Norris
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Extra resources for Shostakovich: The Man and His Music
We adopted a ste4dy tempo, making the them� darker and heavier, more menacing; and the dissonant offshoot from the first violin's version became positively vicious and sarcastic. The Adagio was also too slow, again emphasising a dirge-like characteristic. But the Finale was too fast, possibly out of embarrassment. So the result was restless, breathless, neurotic. It was the comment, mentioned earlier, by Joan Chissell on the radio which prompted us to question this interpretation. In our most recent performances we have adopted a different approach; in reality, all this has meant is returning to the metronome marks, and to all of us the result has been a revela tion - the work seems to have come alive in a tremendously exciting and exhilarating way, and in many respects it is now, for me personally, the finest of the last four Quartets .
Our banner! ' 'Commun ism! ' , and, loudest of all, 'Lenin ! ' . The second half of the work discards all thought of musical imagination: it is a straightfor ward choral song that, if it had possessed greater melodic power, might have served as a revolutionary song and pre vented the Symphony from falling into total neglect until it was . rescued, along with Nos . 3 and 4, during the 1 960s . 8,_ymphony No. 3 in Ejlat, Op. 20 (1929) , 'May Day ' I n the late 1 92os, as the Communist system in Russia moved into its second decade, those in charge were too involved in other things to think about the arts .
Shostakovich helps us to achieve that here, just as in the central section of the Thirteenth Quartet he can, in a sinister way, do exactly the opposite by inexorably counting out every beat of Time. After more than eleven minutes (which, on this scale, is a very long time) the first real 'event' occurs. In every perform ance we have given I am aware of a reaction spreading quickly through all thrnse present - not only the listeners, but the four of us as well: I can even feel it happening to myself.