The composition was discovered in 2003 in Dmitri Shostakovich’s Archives and defined as one of the composer’s early attempts to write the Ninth Quartet.
The composition consists of two author’s manuscripts. The first is an incomplete fair score of the first movement on 12 sheets of 12-line piano score paper. In the upper margin of the first sheet, the composer wrote ‘Quartet No. 9/I’, and in the upper righthand corner ‘DShostakovich / op. 113’. The second author’s manuscript includes a complete rough draft of the first movement on four similar sheets.
The ‘real’ Ninth Quartet op. 117 Es-dur in five movements was finished on 28 May 1964. On 5 October, Isaac Glikman, who was with Shostakovich at all his rehearsals and concerts, wrote in his Diary: ‘A few days ago, D.D. Shostakovich] told me he was writing a quartet in ‘the russe style’.’2 But as early as 18 November, Shostakovich sent his friend a letter confessing, ‘I have finished the 9th quartet, but I am very dissatisfied with it. So in a fit of healthy self-criticism I burned it in the oven. This is the second time this has happened in my ‘creative practice’. The first time I did something like this was in 1926, when I burned all my manuscripts.’
The score of the first movement of the Unfinished Quartet was completed by composer Roman Ledenyov.
The Unfinished Quartet was first performed on 17 January 2005 in the Grand Hall of the Moscow Conservatory by the Borodin Quartet.