Freedom from tyranny, salvation, renewed hope – those were the keywords when I started to think about Dmitry Shostakovich’s String Quartet No. 2 in A major, Op. 68. Shostakovich completed it in just 19 days in September 1944. It was the first string quartet he wrote after the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. Three years later the German armies were retreating everywhere while the Red Army had reached the Baltic states and a victory over the Nazi regime appeared inevitable. The composer stayed at the time in a government retreat for artists, some 300 km north-east from Moscow.