Born Sept. 25, 1906 in St. Petersburg (Russia). Died Aug. 9, 1975 in Moscow (Russia).
Shostakovich, the most famous musician of the USSR, was probably the most ambiguous composer of his era. An unruly child, his musical talents stupefied his teachers Nicolaiev at the piano and Glazunov, (composition). His first symphony, composed before he studied music, was a resounding success. The government commissioned him to compose for the commemoration of the October Revolution.
Held either in esteem or in disgrace, Shostakovich either musically celebrated or denounced the Communist Party. Darius Milhaud noted, “This composer, whose dreamy eyes were hidden behind large spectacles”; Shostakovich was indiscernible. He was just as capable of integrating the latest modern techniques into his music as he was of reviving the most conventional traditions. For example, his third symphony is a unique attempt to create music inspired by the dynamic intonations employed by orators of revolutionary speeches. Some of his operas provoked outright scandal.
Grotesque marches, macabre dances, ironic themes, hesitant melodies, pernicious atmospheres are abundant in Shostakovich’s music which seeks direct expression at the risk of shocking with its combination of tragedy and humour. Between conformist titles and false dedications, this master’s music remains one of the most disturbing of his time. Shostakovich saved both his and his compatriots’ dignity through key works whose truth he hoped would one day be uncovered.
Dmitri Shostakovich on medici.tv
Jan. 8, 2011, 8 p.m.