Dmitri Shostakovich

Dmitri Shostakovich

Dmitri Shostakovich was a Russian Composer and Pianist. He was known for his ability to juxtapose numerous musical styles.

Shostakovich was born in Saint Petersburg, Russia on September 25, 1906. At the age of nine, his mother, Sofiya Kokoulina, gave him his first music lessons. Shostakovich caught on remarkably quick at his piano lessons, it was said that at times, he could remember what his mother played at his last lesson without having to practice or to read music. His astounding ability with the piano earned him a place at the Petrograd Conservatory, which was also known as the Saint Petersburg Conservatory. Shostakovich enjoyed the company and teaching of established Russian composers. He took lessons in composition from the famous pedagogue Leonid Nikolavev. He also took lessons in counterpoint and fugue from Maximilian Steinberg and Nikolay Sokolov respectively. Shostakovich graduated from the conservatory in 1926, and it was then when his First Symphony was brought to the public eye as his graduation piece.

Shostakovich first started his career as a concert pianist. After playing in numerous concerts and gatherings, he won an “honorable mention” in 1927 at the First International Chopin Piano Competition. However, Shostakovich soon noticed that his potential as a concert pianist was not truly realized, and that a career in composing seemed far more promising. This was to be aided by the support of Bruno Walter, who was so impressed by Shostakovich’s work that he himself conducted his First Symphony at Berlin in 1927. Other conductor’s followed suit; in the United States, there was Leopold Stokowski, who also recorded Shostakovich’s First Symphony.

Shostakovich’s second and third symphony were defined by bouts of patriotism and experimentation, and they didn’t receive the kind of attention that his first symphony had earlier received. In 1929 Shostakovich’s career underwent a setback, when his satirical opera “The Nose” was viewed negatively by the Russian Association of Proletarian Musicians. The opera also received mostly negative reviews. Even so, in 1934, while Shostakovich was working in a proletarian youth theatre, Shostakovich released an opera titled “Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk Districk”. The opera was received extremely well by both music circles and by the general public, and it helped Shostakovich respond to earlier criticism. However, all would soon be lost after an article was published in the Russian Political Newspaper, Pravda. The article, titled “Muddle instead of Music”, critiqued Shostakovich’s opera unconventionally. The article gained speed after Joseph Stalin seemed unimpressed after viewing one of the performances of “Lady Macbeth”.

Shostakovich finally put his critics to shame when he premiered his remarkable Fifth Symphony, which was said to have brought most of his audience in Leningrad to tears. Shostakovich then started teaching at the Leningrad Conservatory. Shostakovich then turned into a national celebrity at the turn of World War II. His wartime contributions, namely his seventh, eighth, and ninth symphonies, were seen as brilliant, creative, and fitting.

Dmitri Shostakovich composed a total of fifteen symphonies, six concertos, twenty five suites, seventeen string quartet works, and several other unclassified chamber and piano works. Shostakovich also composed music for more than thirty two films and five ballets. His total publications number well over many of his soviet counterparts. Shostakovich died on August 9, 1975 in Moscow, Russia.


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