Shostakovich, Dmitri (Dmitrievich)
Shostakovich, Dmitri (Dmitrievich)
Shostakovich, Dmitri (Dmitrievich), preeminent Russian composer of the Soviet generation, whose style and idiom of composition largely defined the nature of new Russian music, father of Maxim and grandfather of Dmitri Shostakovich; b. St. Petersburg, Sept. 25, 1906; d. Moscow, Aug. 9, 1975. He was a member of a cultured Russian family; his father was an engineer employed in the government office of weights and measures; his mother was a professional pianist. Shostakovich grew up during the most difficult period of Russian revolutionary history, when famine and disease decimated the population of Petrograd. Of frail physique, he suffered from malnutrition; Glazunov, the director of the Petrograd Cons., appealed personally to the Commissar of Education, Lunacharsky, to grant an increased food ration for Shostakovich, essential for his physical survival. At the age of 9, he commenced piano lessons with his mother; in 1919 he entered the Petrograd Cons., where he studied piano with Nikolayev and composition with Steinberg; graduated in piano in 1923, and in composition in 1925. As a graduation piece, he submitted his first Sym., written at the age of 18; it was first performed by the Leningrad Phil, on May 12, 1926, under the direction of Malko, and subsequently became one of Shostakovich’s most popular works. He pursued postgraduate work in composition until 1930. His second Sym., composed for the 10th anniversary of the Soviet Revolution in 1927, bearing the subtitle Dedication to October and ending with a rousing choral finale, was less successful despite its revolutionary sentiment. He then wrote a satirical opera, The Nose, after Gogol’s whimsical story about the sudden disappearance of the nose from the face of a government functionary; here Shostakovich revealed his flair for musical satire; the score featured a variety of modernistic devices and included an interlude written for percussion instruments only. The Nose was premiered in Leningrad on Jan. 12, 1930, with considerable popular acclaim, but was attacked by officious theater critics as a product of “bourgeois decadence,” and quickly withdrawn from the stage. Somewhat in the same satirical style was his ballet The Golden Age (1930), which included a celebrated dissonant Polka, satirizing the current disarmament conference in Geneva. There followed the third Sym., subtitled May First (Leningrad, Jan. 21, 1930), with a choral finale saluting the International Workers’ Day. Despite its explicit revolutionary content, it failed to earn the approbation of Soviet spokesmen, who dismissed the work as nothing more than a formal gesture of proletarian solidarity. Shostakovich’s next work was to precipitate a crisis in his career, as well as in Soviet music in general; it was an opera to the libretto drawn from a short story by the 19th-century Russian writer Leskov, entitled Lady Macbeth of the District of Mtzensk, and depicting adultery, murder, and suicide in a merchant home under the Czars. It was premiered in Leningrad on Jan. 22, 1934, and was hailed by most Soviet musicians as a significant work comparable to the best productions of Western modern opera. But both the staging and the music ran counter to growing Soviet puritanism; a symphonic interlude portraying a scene of adultery behind the bedroom curtain, orchestrated with suggestive passages on the slide trombones, shocked the Soviet officials present at the performance by its bold naturalism. After the Moscow production of the opera, Pravda, the official organ of the Communist party, publ, an unsigned (and therefore all the more authoritative) article accusing Shostakovich of creating a “bedlam of noise.” The brutality of this assault dismayed Shostakovich; he readily admitted his faults in both content and treatment of the subject, and declared his solemn determination to write music according to the then-emerging formula of “socialist realism.” His next stage production was a ballet, The Limpid Brook (Leningrad, April 4, 1935), portraying the pastoral scenes on a Soviet collective farm. In this work he tempered his dissonant idiom, and the subject seemed eminently fitting for the Soviet theater; but it, too, was condemned in Pravda, this time for an insufficiently dignified treatment of Soviet life. Having been rebuked twice for 2 radically different theater works, Shostakovich abandoned all attempts to write for the stage, and returned to purely instrumental composition. But as though pursued by vengeful fate, he again suffered a painful reverse. His fourth Sym. (1935–36) was placed in rehearsal by the Leningrad Phil., but withdrawn before the performance when representatives of the musical officialdom and even the orch. musicians themselves sharply criticized the piece. Shostakovich’s rehabilitation finally came with the production of his 5th Sym. (Leningrad, Nov. 21, 1937), a work of rhapsodic grandeur, culminating in a powerful climax; it was hailed, as though by spontaneous consensus, as a model of true Soviet art, classical in formal design, lucid in its harmonic idiom, and optimistic in its philosophical connotations. The height of his rise to recognition was achieved in his 7th Sym. He began its composition during the siege of Leningrad by the Nazis in the autumn of 1941; he served in the fire brigade during the air raids; then flew from Leningrad to the temporary Soviet capital in Kuibishev, on the Volga, where he completed the score, which was premiered there on March 1, 1942. Its symphonic development is realistic in the extreme, with the theme of the Nazis, in mechanical march time, rising to monstrous loudness, only to be overcome and reduced to a pathetic drum dribble by a victorious Russian song. The work became a musical symbol of the Russian struggle against the overwhelmingly superior Nazi war machine; it was given the subtitle Leningrad Symphony, and was performed during World War II by virtually every orch. in the Allied countries. Ironically, in later years Shostakovich intimated that the sym. had little or nothing to do with the events of the siege of Leningrad but actually with the siege of Russia in the grip of the dehumanizing and tyrannical Stalinist regime. After the tremendous emotional appeal of the Leningrad Symphony, the 8th Sym., written in 1943, had a lesser impact; the 9th, 10th, and 11th syms. followed (1945, 1953, 1957) without attracting much comment; the 12th Sym. (1960–61), dedicated to the memory of Lenin, aroused a little more interest. But it was left for his 13th Sym. (Leningrad, Dec. 18, 1962) to create a controversy which seemed to be Shostakovich’s peculiar destiny; its vocal first movement for solo bass and men’s chorus, to words by the Soviet poet Evtushenko, expressing the horror of the massacre of Jews by the Nazis during their occupation of the city of Kiev, and containing a warning against residual anti-Semitism in Soviet Russia, met with unexpected criticism by the chairman of the Communist party, Nikita Khrushchev, who complained about the exclusive attention in Evtushenko’s poem to Jewish victims, and his failure to mention the Ukrainians and other nationals who were also slaughtered. The text of the poem was altered to meet these objections, but the 13th Sym. never gained wide acceptance. There followed the remarkable 14th Sym. (1969), in 11 sections, scored for voices and orch., to words by Federico Garcia Lorca, Apollinaire, Rilke, and the Russian poet Kuchelbecker. Shostakovich’s 15th Sym., his last (premiered in Moscow under the direction of his son Maxim on Jan. 8, 1972), demonstrated his undying spirit of innovation; the score is set in the key of C major, but it contains a dodecaphonic passage and literal allusions to motives from Rossini’s William Tell Overture and the Fate Motif from Wagner’s Die Walküre. Shostakovich’s adoption, however limited, of themes built on 12 different notes, a procedure that he had himself condemned as anti-musical, is interesting both from the psychological and sociological standpoint; he experimented with these techniques in several other works; his first explicit use of a 12-tone subject occurred in his 12th String Quartet (1968). Equally illuminating is his use in some of his scores of a personal monogram, D.S.C.H. (for D, Es, C, H in German notation, i.e., D, E-flat, C, B). One by one, his early works, originally condemned as unacceptable to Soviet reality, were returned to the stage and the concert hall; the objectionable fourth and 13th syms. were publ, and recorded; the operas The Nose and Lady Macbeth of the District of Mtzensk (renamed Katerina Izmailova, after the name of the heroine) had several successful revivals.
Shostakovich excelled in instrumental music. Besides the 15 syms., he wrote 15 string quartets, a String Octet, Piano Quintet, 2 piano trios, Cello Sonata, Violin Sonata, Viola Sonata, 2 violin concertos, 2 piano concertos, 2 cello concertos, 24 preludes for Piano, 24 preludes and fugues for Piano, 2 piano sonatas, and several short piano pieces; also choral works and song cycles. What is most remarkable about Shostakovich is the unfailing consistency of his style of composition. His entire oeuvre, from his first work to the last (147 opus numbers in all), proclaims a personal article of faith. His idiom is unmistakably of the 20th century, making free use of dissonant harmonies and intricate contrapuntal designs, yet never abandoning inherent tonality; his music is teleological, leading invariably to a tonal climax, often in a triumphal triadic declaration. Most of his works carry key signatures; his metrical structure is governed by a unifying rhythmic pulse. Shostakovich is equally eloquent in dramatic and lyric utterance; he has no fear of prolonging his slow movements in relentless dynamic rise and fall; the cumulative power of his kinetic drive in rapid movements is overwhelming. Through all the péripéties of his career, he never changed his musical language in its fundamental modalities. When the flow of his music met obstacles, whether technical or external, he obviated them without changing the main direction. In a special announcement issued after Shostakovich’s death, the government of the U.S.S.R. summarized his work as a “remarkable example of fidelity to the traditions of musical classicism, and above all, to the Russian traditions, finding his inspiration in the reality of Soviet life, reasserting and developing in his creative innovations the art of socialist realism, and in so doing, contributing to universal progressive musical culture.” His honors, both domestic and foreign, were many: the Order of Lenin (1946, 1956, 1966), People’s Artist of the U.S.S.R. (1954), Hero of Socialist Labor (1966), Order of the October Revolution (1971), honorary Doctor of the Univ. of Oxford (1958), Laureate of the International Sibelius Prize (1958), and Doctor of Fine Arts from Northwestern Univ. (1973). He visited the U.S. as a delegate to the World Peace Conference in 1949, as a member of a group of Soviet musicians in 1959, and to receive the degree of D.F.A. from Northwestern Univ. in 1973. A postage stamp of 6 kopecks, bearing his photograph and an excerpt from the Leningrad Symphony, was issued by the Soviet Post Office in 1976 to commemorate his 70th birthday. A collected edition of his works was publ, in Moscow (42 vols., 1980 et seq.).
DRAMATIC: Opera: The Nose, op.15 (1927–28; Leningrad, Jan. 12, 1930); Lady Macbeth of the District of Mtzensk, op.29 (1930–32; Leningrad, Jan. 22, 1934; rev. as Katerina Izmaylova, op.114, 1956–63; Moscow, Jan. 8, 1963); The Gamblers (1941–42; unfinished; Leningrad, Sept. 18, 1978). Operetta : Moskva, Cheryomushki, op.105 (1958; Moscow, Jan. 24, 1959). Ba11et: The Golden Age, op.22 (Leningrad, Oct. 26, 1930); Bolt, op.27 (Leningrad, April 8, 1931); The Limpid Brook, op.39 (Leningrad, April 4, 1935). Incidental Music: The Bedbug, op.19 (Moscow, Feb. 13, 1929); The Shot, op.24 (Leningrad, Dec. 14, 1929; not extant); Virgin Soil, op.25 (Leningrad, May 9, 1930; not extant); Rule, Britannia!, op.28 (Leningrad, May 9, 1931); Conditionally Killed, op.31 (Leningrad, Oct. 20, 1931); Hamlet, op.32 (Moscow, March 19, 1932); The Human Comedy, op.37 (Moscow, April 1, 1934); Hail, Spain, op.44 (Leningrad, Nov. 23, 1936); King Lear, op.58a (1940; Leningrad, March 24, 1941); Native Country, op.63 (Moscow, Nov. 7, 1942); Russian River, op.66 (Moscow, Dec. 1944); Victorious Spring, op.72 (1945; Moscow, May 1946). Film: New Babylon, op.18 (1928–29); Alone, op.26 (1930–31); Golden Mountains, op.30 (1931); Counterplan, op.33 (1932); The Tale of the Priest and His Worker Blockhead, op.36 (1933–34; unfinished; rev. as a comic opera by S. Khentova, 1980); Love and Hatred, op.38 (1934); The Youth of Maxim, op.41 (1934); Girl Friends, op.41a (1934–35); The Return of Maxim, op.45 (1936–37); Volochayev Days, op.48 (1936–37); The Vyborg District, op.50 (1938); Friends, op.51 (1938); The Great Citizen, op.52 (1937); The Man with a Gun, op.53 (1938); The Great Citizen, op.55 (1938–39); The Silly Little Mouse, op.56 (1939; unfinished); The Adventures of Korzinkina, op.59 (1940; not extant); Zoya, op.64 (1944); Simple People, op.71 (1945); The YoungGuard, op.75 (1947–48); Pirogov, op.76 (1947); Michurin, op.78 (1948); Encounter at the Elbe, op.80 (1948); The Fall of Berlin, op.82 (1949); Belinsky, op.85 (1950); The Unforgettable Year 1919, op.89 (1951); Song of the Great Rivers (Unity), op.95 (1954); The Gadfly, op.97 (1955); The First Echelon, op.99 (1955–56); Five Days—Five Nights, op.lll (1960); Hamlet, op.116 (1963–64); A Year Is a Lifetime, op.120 (1965); Sofia Perovskaya, op.132 (1967); King Lear, op.137 (1970). ORCH.: Scherzo, op.l (1919); Theme and Variations, op.3 (1921–22); Scferzo, op.7 (1923–24); 15 syms.: No. 1, op.10 (1924–25; Leningrad, May 12, 1926), No. 2, To October, with Bass and Chorus in the finale, op.14 (Leningrad, Nov. 5, 1927), No. 3, The First of May, with Chorus in the finale, op.20, (1929; Leningrad, Jan. 21, 1930), No. 4, op.43 (1935–36; Moscow, Dec. 30, 1961), No. 5, op.47 (Leningrad, Nov. 21, 1937), No. 6, op.54 (Leningrad, Nov. 5, 1939), No. 7, Leningrad, op.60 (1941; Kuibishev, March 1, 1942), No. 8, op.65 (Moscow, Nov. 3, 1943), No. 9, op.70 (Leningrad, Nov. 3, 1945), No. 10, op.93 (Leningrad, Dec. 17, 1953), No. 11, The Year 1905, op.103 (Moscow, Oct. 30, 1957), No. 12, The Year 1917, op.112, dedicated to the memory of Lenin (Leningrad, Oct. 1, 1961), No. 13, Babiy Yar, with Bass and Men’s Chorus, op.113 (Moscow, Dec. 18, 1962), No. 14 for Soprano, Bass, Strings, and Percussion, op.135 (Leningrad, Sept. 29, 1969), and No. 15, op.141 (1971; Moscow, Jan. 8, 1972); 2 Pieces for E. Dressel’s opera Der arme Columbus, op.23 (1929); 2 piano concertos: No. 1 for Piano, Trumpet, and Strings, op.35 (Leningrad, Oct. 15, 1933) and No. 2, op.102 (Moscow, May 10, 1957); 5 Fragments, op.42 (1935); Solemn March for Military Band (1942); 2 violin concertos: No. 1, op.77 (1947–48; Leningrad, Oct. 29, 1955) and No. 2, op.129 (Moscow, Sept. 13, 1967); 3 Pieces for Orchestra (1947–48); Festive Overture, op.96 (1954); 2 cello concertos: No. 1, op.107 (Leningrad, Oct. 4, 1959) and No. 2, op.126 (Moscow, Sept. 25, 1966); Novorossiisk Chimes: The Flame of Eternal Glory (1960); Overture on Russian and Khirghiz Folk Themes, op.115 (1963; Moscow, Oct. 10, 1965); Funeral-Triumphal Prelude in Memory of the Heroes of the Battle of Stalingrad, op.130 (1967); October, symphonic poem, op.131 (Moscow, Sept. 26, 1967); March of the Soviet Militia for Military Band, op.139 (1970); also 27 suites from various works (1927–65). CHAMBER: 2 piano trios: No. 1, op.8 (1923) and No. 2, op.67 (Leningrad, Nov. 14, 1944); 3 Pieces for Cello and Piano, op.9 (1923–24; not extant); 2 Pieces for String Octet, op.ll (1924–25); Cello Sonata, op.40 (Leningrad, Dec. 25, 1934); 15 string quartets: No. 1, op.49 (Leningrad, Oct. 10, 1938), No. 2, op.68 (Leningrad, Nov. 14, 1944), No. 3, op.73 (Moscow, Dec. 16, 1946), No. 4, op.83 (1949; Moscow, Dec. 3, 1953), No. 5, op.92 (1952; Moscow, Nov. 13, 1953), No. 6, op.101 (Leningrad, Oct. 7, 1956), No. 7, op.108 (Leningrad, May 15, 1960), No. 8, op.U0 (Leningrad, Oct. 2, 1960), No. 9, op.117 (Moscow, Nov. 20, 1964), No. 10, op.118 (Moscow, Nov. 10, 1964), No. 11, op.122 (Leningrad, May 2, 1960), No. 9, op.117 (Moscow, Nov. 20, 1964), No. 10, op.118 (Moscow, Nov. 10, 1964), No. 11, op.122 (Leningrad, Nov. 12, 1973), and No. 15, op.144 (Leningrad, Nov. 15, 1974); 3 Pieces for Violin (1940); Piano Quintet, op.57 (Moscow, Nov. 23, 1940); Violin Sonata, op.134 (1968; Moscow, May 3, 1969); Viola Sonata, op.147 (Leningrad, Oct. 1, 1975). Piano: Minuet, Prelude, and Intermezzo (1919–20; unfinished); Murzilka (n.d.); 8 Preludes, op.2 (1918–20); 5 Preludes (1919–21); 3 Fantastic Dances, op.5 (1920–22); Suite for 2 Pianos, op.6 (1922); 2 sonatas: No. 1, op.12 (Leningrad, Dec. 12, 1926) and No. 2, op.61 (Moscow, June 6, 1943); Aphorisms, op.13 (1927); 24 Preludes, op.34 (1932–33); Children’s Notebook, op.69 (1944–45); Merry March for 2 Pianos (1949); 24 Preludes and Fugues, op.87 (1950–51; Leningrad, Dec. 23, 1952); Concertino for 2 Pianos, op.94 (1953). VOCAL : Choral : Oath to the People’s Commissar for Bass, Chorus, and Piano (1941); Poem of the Motherland, cantata for Mezzo-soprano, Tenor, 2 Baritones, Bass, Chorus, and Orch., op.74 (1947); Song of the Forests, oratorio for Tenor, Bass, Boy’s Chorus, Mixed Chorus, and Orch., op.81 (Leningrad, Nov. 15, 1949); 10 Poems for Chorus and Boy’s Chorus, op.88 (1951); 10 Russian Folksong Arrangements for Soloists, Chorus, and Piano (1951); The Sun Shines on our Motherland, cantata for Boy’s Chorus, Mixed Chorus, and Orch., op.90 (1952); 2 Russian Folksong Arrangements for Chorus, op.104 (1957); Little Paradise, cantata for 4 Basses, Small Chorus, and Piano (c. 1960; Washington, D.C., Jan. 12, 1989); The Execution of Stepan Razin for Bass, Chorus, and Orch., op.119 (Moscow, Dec. 28, 1964); Loyalty, 8 ballads for Men’s Chorus, op.136 (1970). Solo Voice:2 Fables of Krilov for Mezzo-soprano and Orch., op.4 (1922; Moscow, Sept. 16, 1981); 6 Romances on Texts of Japanese Poets for Tenor and Orch., op.21 (1928–32); 4 Romances for Bass and Piano, op.46 (1936–37; Nos. 1 to 3 orchestrated); 6 Romances for Bass and Piano, op.62 (1942; orchestrated as opp. 62a and 140); Patriotic Song (1943); Song About the Red Army (1943; in collaboration with A. Khacha-turian); From Jewish Folk Poetry for Soprano, Alto, Tenor, and Piano, op.79 (1948; orchestrated as op.79a); 2 Romances for Man’s Voice and Piano, op.84 (1950); 4 Songs for Voice and Piano, op.86 (1951); 4 Monologues for Bass and Piano, op.91 (1952); Greek Songs for Voice and Piano (1952–53); 5 Romances: Songs of our Days for Bass and Piano, op.95 (1954); There Were Kisses for Voice and Piano (1954); Spanish Songs for Mezzo-soprano and Piano, op.100 (1956); Satires: Pictures of the Past for Soprano and Piano, op.109 (1960); 5 Romances for Bass and Piano, op.121 (1965); Preface to the Complete Collection of My Works and Reflections on this Preface for Bass and Piano, op.123 (1966); 7 Romances on Poems of A. Blok for Soprano, Violin, Cello, and Piano, op.127 (1967); Spring, Spring for Bass and Piano, op.128 (1967); 6 Romances for Bass and Chamber Orch., op.140 (1971); 6 Poems of Marina Tsvetayeva for Alto and Piano, op.143 (1973; orchestrated as op.l43a); Suite for Bass and Piano, op.145 (1974; orchestrated as op.145a); 4 Verses of Captain Lebyadkin for Bass and Piano, op.146 (1975). OTHER: Orchestrations of several works, including Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov (1939–40), Khovanshchina (1958), and Songs and Dances of Death (1962).
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—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire