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.
Everything is connected – isn’t that so? Whatever we do, it has consequences, big or small, harmless or deadly. Whatever we decide, it affects people around us, positively, negatively. At the end, our life is the sum of our decisions, well-meant, often misguided and mostly overrated as to their importance. A couple of things come together here.
Have a look at the picture – what do you see? Not much, I agree. It is dark, an eery light hovers over the horizon. A few lights, one on the top of a distant tall building. It’s a lighthouse. On an island. Shadowy figures walking briskly down a paved road. What are they up to? Would you feel comfortable walking behind these people? Now imagine this scenery with howling winds, battering rain and the uncertainty of being in time for the last ferry. Finally the soundtrack: the first movement of Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 1, Op. 107. Now you have reasons to shiver and to feel tight.
Waiting. How much time we spend just waiting. Currently I am waiting for my daughter. She’s taking swimming lessons and I am waiting dutifully in the car listening to extraordinary music: Dmitry Shostakovich’s Piano Trio No. 2 in E minor, Op. 67, recorded by the Beaux Arts Trio. The time we wait for someone to come or something to happen is not to be considered time lost. It can be turned into something useful.