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


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.

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Twentieth-Century Music
  • ISSN: 1478-5722
  • EISSN: 1478-5730
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