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About Dmitri Shostakovich

A Russian composer of orchestral-choral, opera, chamber, symphonies, and vocal and piano music. Like Prokofiev, Shostakovich was a highly visible and harshly criticized composer. Often in peril from the Stalinist regime and the advancing German armies in WWII, he nevertheless became the last (for now) great symphonist, producing a style that expressed ironic humor (his ninth symphony), or had vast epic qualities (the fifth, seventh, and eleventh symphonies), or had a tragic and desolate visage (the tenth symphony). His melodic sense developed from the warm, rich, and even sweet qualities of the Preludes (24) for Piano — which skillfully employ Russian folk song modality and magnificent characterization, updating classical techniques — to the bare, large-interval skips of the later works. At times, Shostakovich was able to reach the public with the most modern of his works (the tragic opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk (1934), widely popular in the Soviet Union and Europe until the press came down on it.) He was one of the most courageous of composers.

St. Petersburg, Russia
Sep 25, 1906

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