Suddenly with the commencement of the third movement we are confronted with the fortissimo yapping of an attacking dog.Uh-huh. Well, the dynamic marking is ff, he does have that right! I just don't see any barking and attacking dogs. Let's have a look at the music. Here are some of the themes from the quartet:
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Let's listen to the quartet. Here is the St. Petersburg Quartet. There are two clips; the first is the first two movements and the second is the last movement:
This is a wonderfully tightly written quartet with a group of closely-related themes. The first movement uses a number of rhythmic techniques to create a fluid effect. The second movement is static, relying on repetition to establish a dreamlike mood. The third movement is linked to the previous ones, but is more aggressive and introduces a very quick fugue. Halfway through the themes from the first two movements return in a varied form. It ends quietly with the three note anapest. No attacking dogs. As for the pitches, notice the flattening of the notes that is typical of a lot of Russian modes. In the first theme, for example, F sharp, E flat, D, C sharp, C natural, B flat, A, G natural, F sharp. Except for a couple of passing notes, this outlines the octatonic scale, often used in Russian music, that alternates semitones and tones. It doesn't really correspond to the Western major and minor scales. This kind of modality underlies a lot of the exotic sound of Shostakovich's melodies--why they seem to wander in and out of what we hear as major and minor. It is really neither!
That should get you started on this quartet!