Alexander Mossolov was one of the most prominent composers in revolutionary Russia. Prior to being subjected to Stalinist censorship, he was famous for pieces including Iron Foundry, an emblem of Soviet Futurism. Although his First String Quartet (from 1926) fits into classical moulds, it is a decidedly avant-garde work whose most outstanding features are the timbral exploration of the first movement, the quotation of Kyrgyz motives in the second, the irony of the third and the stark contrasts between vigorous and melancholic passages in the finale.
Shostakovich’s interest in the string quartet commenced relatively late, although the genre would accompany the composer throughout his lifetime. Completed in 1946, the String Quartet No. 3 was composed in a situation of war. Perhaps this explains the stark contrasts between the gentleness of the first movement and the bitterness of the second, the rarefied atmosphere of the third and the mournfulness of the fourth, and, in particular, the internal contradiction that emerges in the finale, in which dance themes, a passacaglia and an elegiac coda are juxtaposed.