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The Comfort of Denial: Metre, Cyclic Form, and Narrative in Shostakovich's Seventh String Quartet

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 April 2011


Recent scholarship has taken the leap from documenting cyclic form in Shostakovich's Seventh String Quartet to its interpretation. David Fanning, Judith Kuhn, and Sarah Reichardt, for instance, endorse a belief in the quartet's satisfactory closure. I propose an alternative reading that qualifies such resolution as merely apparent. I posit a musical ‘persona’ (Edward T. Cone) that achieves comfort in denial. I support my claim by analysing shifting hypermetre, metrical insertions, motif, and cyclic form, then weave my observations into a narrative interpretation. While acknowledging the limitations of the narrative analogy (following Carolyn Abbate, Lawrence Kramer, and Jean-Jacques Nattiez), I rely on its principal strength: the ability to help construct a compelling interpretation of the elusive ‘meaning’ of a piece of absolute music (Cone, Fred Maus, Anthony Newcomb, Leo Treitler). I conclude that the peculiar arrangement of shifting metrical identities and the DSCH-motto-related fragments tell a psychological story: of a musical persona's thwarted search for self.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2011

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