Classical String Quartets for the death metal fan, a first look

circa 1800:  Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 - 1827), German composer, generally considered to be one of the greatest composers in the Western tradition.  (Photo by Henry Guttmann/Getty Images)shostakovich01

The purpose of this series is to present the death metal fan (and by extension, the death metal writer/artist/composer) with a look into great classical string quartets that evoke the same violent and stark atmosphere that is typical of death metal.

The metal fan is encouraged to look beyond superficial parallels or differences so that he realizes how these string quartets by master composers developed into a cornucopia of expressions, patterns and details. I wish this would also be an aspiration or at least an inspiration for the artist (or would-be artist) that has the chance of reading it.

Another good reason to listen to string quartets in general is that they tend to express a more sincere and private facet of the composer while also being a test to his prowess in composition.

Ludwig van Beethoven: Op. 133, Grosse Fuge

Originally written as the last movement of his Op. 130, String Quartet No. 13 in B flat major, this massive movement was once commented on by Stravinsky saying that it is “an absolutely contemporary piece of music that will be contemporary forever.”. Stravinsky was referring to the absolute character of the music and its jarring disparity with temporal conventions.


Dmitry Shostakovich: String Quartet No. 10 in A flat, Op. 118

The well-known dark personality of Shostakovich’s compositions comes through in distilled and intensified manner in his string quartets. In here we find a mature Shostakovich channeling visions of a personal hell. We can imagine his will to fight through and see the light at the end of the tunnel despite facing terror and dread.

Death Melodies Series: Dmitri Shostakovich

The Death Melodies Series (DMS) continues with the modernist composer Dmitri Shostakovich.


At the age of nine it became apparent that Shostakovich was a child prodigy on piano. He was also impassioned for composition. His first major musical achievement was his first symphony when he was nineteen.

He had successes and failures in the Soviet Union. In 1936, Stalin attended a premiere of Shostakovich’s opera Lady Macbeth and was noted that he laughed at the performance. Soon after, critics insulted Shostakovich to the point that his commissions were substantially decreased and he became poor.

Shostakovich had a rather saddening life. During the Great Purge in the late 1930’s, many of the composer’s relatives and friends perished. In 1960, Shostakovich decided to join the Communist Party to become the General Secretary of the Composer’s Union. However, his health started to decline soon after. He was diagnosed with polio and encountered many falls that crippled him. Shostakovich was keen to excessively drinking vodka and smoking cigarettes, which led to his death. In 1975 he died of lung cancer.

I decided to share Shostakovich’s first violin concerto. It was written when there were severe censorships and hostilities from the Russian government. Shostakovich didn’t publish this concerto until after Stalin’s death.