Though conceived as four separate movements, my second string quartet has a single motif which is common to them all. This is the three-note "Muss es sein?" from Beethoven's last quartet, Op. 135. But whereas Beethoven's theme is notated G E A flat, thus giving it an F minor connotation, I have sued an alternative spelling - G E G sharp - which suggests an ambiguous E minor-major. This ambiguity, in fact, becomes the tonal basis of the whole work, only to be resolved at the end of the final movement.
Each movement begins with a variant of the basic motif on the cello. The first has the original form of the theme, while the second has a "majorised" version which is also expressed as a chord. The third movement, with its "scherzoid" middle section, reverts to the major-minor ambiguity of the first, and the finale begins with the "majorised" version as an ostinato accompaniment on pizzicato cello.
The slow movement is sub-titled "In memoriam DSCH" and concludes with a quotation of Shostakovich's motto - D E flat C B - which is basically the same as Beethoven's with the addition of one note.
This is not to imply that the work contains no other thematic material. One important theme, a rising fifth and a second, is also common to three of the movements, and is ultimately derived from my first quartet, Op. 1 of 27 years earlier, to which this second contribution to the form is in many ways like a sequel. Like the earlier work, too, this quartet is dedicated to my wife.