Dmitri Shostakovich Poster


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Overview (3)

Born in St. Petersburg, Russian Empire [now Russia]
Died in Moscow, Russian SFSR, USSR [now Russia]  (lung cancer)
Birth NameDmitri Dmitriyevich Shostakovich

Mini Bio (1)

Dmitri Shostakovich, one of Russian culture's most acclaimed intellectuals who was censored under the dictatorship of Joseph Stalin, was an internationally recognized composer whose music was in over 100 films.

He was born Dmitri Dmitrievich Shostakovich on September 25, 1906, in St. Petersburg, Russia. He was the second of three children of Dmitri Boleslavovich Shostakovich, a chemical engineer, and Sofia Kokaoulina, a pianist. Young Shostakovich studied piano under his mother tutelage and at a private school in St. Petersburg. His greatest influences were Johann Sebastian Bach, Ludwig van Beethoven and Modest Mussorgsky. From 1919-1925 he studied piano and composition at St. Petersburg (Leningrad) Conservatory. He wrote his First "Classical" symphony as his graduation piece. In 1927 he won an "honorable mention diploma" at the 1st International Piano Competition in Warsaw. In 1929 he collaborated with writer Vladimir Mayakovsky, artist Alexander Rodchenko and director Vsevolod Meyerhold.

In 1934 Shostakovich collaborated with Aleksei Dikij on the legendary opera Katerina Izmailova" (aka Lady Makbeth of Mtsensk). Dikij's production of "Katerina Izmailova" had over 100 performances in Leningrad and Moscow, and was considered a highlight in his directing career. However, in 1936, the opera was severely criticized by some critics on the Pravda, the Communist Party's official newspaper, and accused of formalism and intellectualism.

In the summer of 1941 Nazi Germany and its allies invaded the Soviet Union, and German and Finnish forces and encircled Leningrad (St. Petersburg). Defenders and civilians in besieged Leningrad were doomed, because the besieging forces cut supplies of food and energy to the surrounded city. It wasn't long before the city's population of birds, pets and even rats were eaten, and not long after there were reports of cannibalism brought about by starvation. The siege of Leningrad was so impenetrable that by December of that year an average of 4000 to 6000 residents a day were dying of starvation, disease, shellfire, bombardment and a variety of other causes.

During the first months of the siege Shostakovich was in Leningrad. He survived the first bombardments and joined the "night watch" patrol, helping to put out fires during massive German air bombardments. Shostakovich personally neutralized several incendiary bombs and was actively involved in firefighting. After aerial and artillery bombardments, during the rare quiet moments, Shostakovich was back to his piano composing new music. He was evacuated from the besieged city in the end of 1941.

The Seventh "Leningrad" Symphony, which Shostakovich started composing during the Nazi aerial and artillery attacks during the siege, was the masterpiece that won him national and international recognition. His music helped lift the spirits of Leningrad citizens in a time when they were struggling to survive.

On August 9, 1942, Karl Eliasberg gave a premiere performance of Shostakovich's Seventh Symphony in Leningrad. That famous concert was made possible because Eliasberg specially created an orchestra of survivors who were still able to perform in spite of starvation and dystrophy.

Eliasberg, who was also extremely emaciated, spent some time in the hospital in the Astoria hotel and came to the rehearsals straight from the sick ward. On the score of one of the musicians of that legendary orchestra you can still see a drawing showing hollow-cheeked Eliasberg conducting his orchestra sitting on a chair. The legendary performance was broadcast live from the Radio Hall in Leningrad, so millions of civilians and defenders of the besieged city were able to hear the powerful music. The symphony written in the conventional four movements is Shostakovich's longest, and one of the longest in the repertoire, with performances taking approximately one hour and fifteen minutes. The scale and scope of the work is consistent with Shostakovich's other symphonies as well as with those of composers considered to be his strongest influences, including Bruckner, Gustav Mahler and Igor Stravinsky.

Before they tackled Shostakovich's work, Eliasberg had the players go through pieces from the standard repertoire - Ludwig van Beethoven, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov - which they also performed for broadcast. Because the city was still blockaded at the time, the score was flown by night in early July for rehearsal. The concert was given on 9 August 1942. Whether this date was chosen intentionally, it was the day Hitler had chosen previously to celebrate the fall of Leningrad with a lavish reception for the top Nazi commanders. But instead of Hitler's plan, all loudspeakers delivered the live broadcast of the symphony performance throughout the city as well as to the German forces in a move of psychological warfare. The Russian commander of the Leningrad front, General Govorov, ordered a bombardment of German artillery positions in advance of the broadcast to ensure their silence during the performance of the symphony; a special operation, code-named "Squall," was executed for precisely this purpose. Three thousand high-caliber shells were lobbed onto the enemy. Then the music of Shostakovich came out of the speakers all over the siege perimeter, so the Nazis had to face the music. The music of Shostakovich brought the much needed support and catharsis to survivors who loved the symphony and applauded to Eliasberg and his orchestra. General Govorov with his staff came backstage to thank Eliasberg and his musicians for their art and courage.

The news about Dmitry Shostakovich's Seventh Symphony premiere in besieged Leningrad spread all over the world. It was an important message to all nations that Hitler's attack on Leningrad failed. Shostakovich who began to write his famous symphony before evacuation from besieged Leningrad in 1941, could not go back to attend its premier performance in 1942. The composer sent the conductor and the musicians who performed his work in the besieged city a telegram with words of gratitude.

After WWII Shostakovich was again accused of formalism in 1948. At that time, Shostakovich gained international recognition in the free world, and received several invitations to participate in music festivals and other cultural events. He was awarded the International Peace Prize (1954), State Prize five times (in 1941-1952), State Prizes of Russia and the USSR, and was designated People's Artist of the USSR. From 1957-1975 he was secretary of the Union of Composers of Russia and the USSR. He taught and promoted many talented musicians, such as Andrei Petrov, Georgi Sviridov, Karen Khachaturyan, and Boris Tishchenko among others.

Shostakovich and Evgeniy Evtushenko worked together on the famous Symphony No. 13 titled "Babi Yar", a vocal setting of poems by Yevtushenko. It was first performed in Moscow on December 18, 1962 under the baton of Kirill Kondrashin. Yevtushenko and Shostakovich toured many countries with the performances of "Babi Yar", and made several recordings of the Symphony No. 13. Among Shostakovich's best known film scores are 'Suite from The Gadfly' from The Gadfly (1955), and the score for director Grigoriy Kozintsev's acclaimed film Hamlet (1964) starring Innokentiy Smoktunovskiy.

In 1965 Shostakovich raised his voice in defense of poet Joseph Brodsky, who was sentenced to five years of exile and hard labor. Shostakovich co-signed protests together with such prominent figures as Korney Ivanovich Chukovskiy, Anna Akhmatova, Samuil Marshak, Evgeniy Evtushenko, and the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre. After the protests his sentence was commuted, and Brodsky returned to Leningrad. At that time, Shostakovich joined the group of 25 distinguished intellectuals in signing the letter to Leonid Brezhnev asking not to rehabilitate Joseph Stalin.

Dmitri Shostakovich was a towering figure in Russian music of the 20th century along with 'Sergei Prokofiev (I)' and Aram Khachaturyan. He wrote 15 symphonies, of which the Fifth (1937), the Sevenths "Leningrad" (1942), and the Thurteenth "Baby Yar" (1968) are the best known. His other compositions include cantatas and oratorios, seven operas and operettas, four ballets, twelve musical comedies and other music for stage plays, 36 original motion picture scores, fifteen quartets and other chamber music for, piano, violin, and cello. Shostakovich, who was an awarded pianist himself, had composed outstanding works for piano, such as his Piano concertos No1 and No2. His 24 Preludes and Fugues for piano received numerous awards and recognitions, and were recorded in critically acclaimed performance by Vladimir Ashkenazy.

Shostakovich died of a heart attack on august 9, 1975, in Moscow, and was laid to rest in Novodevichi Convent Cemetery in Moscow, Russia. His legacy is continued by his son, conductor Maxim Shostakovich, and his grandson, pianist Dmitri Shostakovich Jr.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Steve Shelokhonov & X

Spouse (3)

Irina Supinskaya (December 1962 - 9 August 1975) ( his death)
Margarita Kainova (July 1956 - 1960) ( divorced)
Nina Varzar (13 May 1932 - 5 December 1954) ( her death) ( 2 children)

Trivia (9)

His Eighth String Quartet, Op. 110, was written from start to finish over the span of just three days.
The father of Galina Shostakovich and conductor Maksim Shostakovich. Grandfather of composer Dmitri Shostakovich Jr.
First learned piano from his mother. On several occasions, he displayed a remarkable ability to remember what his mother had played at the previous lesson, and would get caught in the act of pretending to read, by playing the previous lesson's music when different music was placed in front of him.
Played piano in movie theaters during the silent film era in St. Petersburg, Russia.
His opera "Lady Macbeth of Mtensk" was strongly criticized in a review on the Pravda. As a result of this attack, Shostakovich shelved his Fourth Symphony (written at the same time as the opera), and it wasn't premiered until decades afterward. When rehearsals for the premiere began, he refused to have a single note of the symphony altered.
Had the ability to write music in the midst of a great deal of noise. He would often write in crowded cafés, even when construction was going on outside.
Was trapped in Leningrad for several months while the German army laid siege to it, but was evacuated before the city was liberated by Russian forces and the siege lifted.
Father of Irina Shostakovich.
A fan of the Zenit Leningrad (today Zenit Saint Petersburg) football club. He also had a qualification as a football referee.

Personal Quotes (2)

The climax of joy is not when you're through a new symphony, but when you are hoarse from shouting, with your hands stinging from clapping, your lips parched, and you sip a second glass of beer after you've fought for it with 90,000 other spectators to celebrate the victory of your favorite team.
I have thought that my life was replete with sorrow and that it would be hard to find a more miserable man. But when I started going over the life stories of my friends and acquaintances, I was horrified. Not one of them had an easy or a happy life. Some came to a terrible end, some died in terrible suffering, and the lives of many of them could easily be called more miserable than mine. And that made me even sadder. I was remembering my friends and all I saw was corpses, mountains of corpses.

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