Dmitri Shostakovich (1906–1975)

How to say the name:

‘Shostakovich’ is said like Shos-ta-kowe-vitch. ‘Dmitri’ is said like ‘D-me-tree’.

Shostakovich’s grave in Moscow

Born:

25th September 1906 in St Petersburg, Russia.

Died:

9th August 1975 in Moscow, Russia.

Buried:

Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow.

Type of Music:

Modern classical music.

Some great pieces:
  • Symphonies, especially No. 5 and Nos. 7–15. (See below for a video of No. 5.)
  • Piano Concertos Nos. 1 and 2. (See below for a video of Shostakovich himself playing No. 1.)
  • Violin Concertos Nos. 1 and 2.
  • The opera ‘Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District’.
  • String Quartets, especially Nos. 8 and 15.
  • 24 Preludes and Fugues for the piano.
Some interesting facts:
  • He wrote some of the best symphonies and string quartets of the last century.
  • You cannot understand Shostakovich’s music without understand what Russia was like at the time. From the middle of the 1930s until the 1950s, or even later, Russia was a very scary place. Many people in Russia were getting into trouble with the government. And the punishment for this was often very harsh.
  • Shostakovich himself got into trouble with the goverment for his opera ‘Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District’ (he was made an “Enemy of the People”). They said it was ‘coarse, primitive and vulgar’ and it was banned for almost 30 years!
  • People stopped playing his music for a while after he got into trouble. He also had to stop the reheasals for his Symphony No. 4 in case he got into even more trouble!
  • He wrote Symphony No. 5 after this to please the Russian government (which it did).
  • He wrote Symphony No. 7 during the Siege of Leningrad—an awful time dirring World War Two when the Germans cut off Leningrad (now St Petersburg) for over two years and thousands of people died. Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 7 expresses what it was like to live throught that siege.
  • He got into trouble with the government again in 1948 (as did Prokofiev). He was made an “Enemy of the People” again and his music was banned for a while.
  • He wrote a lot of music to express how he felt about living in such a scary country which he hid until it was safe to bring out.
  • Four years after Shostakovich died, a book appeared that changed everyone’s ideas about his music. It said that even his Symphony No. 5 was all about how horrible the Russian government had been. It seems that music had just been so clever that he had fooled the government into thinking otherwise!
  • Shostakovich also wrote a lot of very funny and fun music. Some of his music is almost like jazz!
  • He was mad about football!!

Here is a video of part of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5.

Fourth movement of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5

And here is a video of Shostakovich himself (on the piano) playing the end of his Piano Concerto No. 1!

Shostakovich himself playing the end of his Piano Concerto No. 1

There is another video of music by Shostakovich on the following news page:

Picture credits:
  1. Dmitri Shostakovich. This photogrpah is from 1942 and is in the public domain. Click here for the source of this image, along with the relevant copyright information.
  2. Shostakovich’s grave in Moscow. This photogrpah was taken in August 2004 and is in the public domain. Click here for the source of this image, along with the relevant copyright information.
Video credits:
  1. Shostakovich, Symphony No. 5,Bernstein. Bernstein, NYPO 1979 . This is the last movement, Allegro non troppo.
  2. RARE: Young Shostakovich Playing end of op.35 (1934?). Pianist: Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975), Trumpeter: Leonid Yurie (1913-1971), Conductor: Maybe Aleksandr Gauk (1893-1963), Orchestra: Probably Leningrad Philharmonic, Venue: Moscow Conservatory “Great Hall”. There is more information about this video on the video’s YouTube page.

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