The composition consists of two author's manuscripts. The first is an incomplete fair score of the first movement (a total of 225 bars) on 12 sheets (one empty) of 12-line piano score paper, paginated by the author on every page, 1 through 22, and with bar-by-bar indexing in indelible pencil. The author's manuscript is written in purple ink. In the upper margin of the first sheet, the composer wrote, “Quartet No. 9/I,” and in the upper right-hand corner, “'DShostakovich/op.113' Key Es-dur, tempo Allegretto.” The second author's manuscript includes a complete rough draft of the first movement on four similar sheets with incomplete pagination by the author, 1 through 6, written in the same ink, and a sketch of 16 bars on the back of the last sheet.
The Unfinished Quartet was first performed on 17 January, 2005 in the Grand Hall of the Moscow Conservatory by the Borodin Quartet.