Dmitri Shostakovich

Shostakovich, Dmitri (dyĭmēˈtrē shŏstŏkôˈvĭch) [key], 1906–75, Russian composer, b. St. Petersburg. Shostakovich studied at the Leningrad Conservatory (1919–25). The early success of his First Symphony (1925) was confirmed by positive public reaction to two satirical works of 1930—an opera, The Nose (Leningrad; from a tale by Gogol), and a ballet, The Golden Age. Shostakovich sought Soviet approval and survived the changing tides of opinion. Severely castigated after Stalin saw a 1936 production of his popular opera Lady Macbeth of the Mzensk District (1934), he was restored to favor with his powerful yet ironic Fifth Symphony (1937). From then on he concentrated on symphonic compositions (in all, he wrote 15 symphonies) and, during the World War II, on heroic cantatas. Influenced by Mahler in his monumental symphonies, many of which include choral portions, Shostakovich was basically a Russian nationalist composer whose work represented traditional classical forms and generally remained accessibly tonal. Nonethless, his tart harmonics and musical portrayal of pain and turmoil are distinctly 20th cent. in tone. His outstanding works include 15 string quartets, a piano concerto (1933), the Piano Quintet (1940), the Eighth Symphony (1943), 24 Preludes and Fugues for Piano (1951), and the 13th Symphony, "Babi Yar" (1962).

See Testimony: The Memoirs of Dmitri Shostakovich as Related to and Edited by Solomon Volkov (1979, repr. 2000); biographies by V. I. Seroff and N. K. Shohat (1970), E. Wilson (1994), and L. E. Fay (1999); study by N. F. Kay (1971); I. MacDonald, The New Shostakovich (1990); A. B. Ho and D. Feofanov, Shostakovich Reconsidered (1998); M. H. Brown, ed., A Shostakovich Casebook (2004); L. E. Fay, ed., Shostakovich and His World (2004); S. Moshevich, Dmitri Shostakovich, Pianist (2004); S. Volkov, Shostakovich and Stalin (2004); W. Lesser, Music for Silenced Voices: Shostakovich and The Fifteen Quartets (2011).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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