Writing string quartets must have become somewhat easier for Dmitri Shostakovich when, on May 28, 1958, the anti-formalism decree (!) of 1948 was rescinded. The type of bold-cryptic programmatic music which Shostakovich had ended up writing during his long tango with Stalinist authorities was no longer as necessary to survival, and he could be less overt (or covert) in his patriotism (or whatever). In his seventh string quartet, written during the ‘Thaw’ of Khruschev, Shostakovich settled briefly into compositional study and privacy. The piece is light in notes but dark in sound Ã not long, but compact and charged. In 1954 Shostakovich was stunned by the loss of his first wife to cancer. The Seventh String Quartet was written around the time of what would have been her fiftieth birthday, in 1960.