Among the most celebrated composers of the twentieth century, Dmitri Shostakovich’s musical output was shaped by political repression and personal tragedy. Sharp contrasts, a biting wit, and unusual harmonic language are inherent to his distinctive artistic voice. His vast body of work includes music for theatre, ballet, and film, though he is best known for his 15 symphonies and 15 string quartets. Shostakovich gained international success at 19, and early on he experienced a broad range of influences from Tchaikovsky to the avant-garde. By the 1930s, a cultural revolution in Stalin’s Russia demanded music in a direct and popular style, and celebration of Shostakovich turned to condemnation. On many occasions he feared for his life and his family. In 1960, he joined the Communist Party, and in the same year he completed his String Quartet No. 8, which he called “an obituary for myself.” Since his death in 1975, debate continues between those who hear the composer’s works as sincere Social Realist art and those who point to covert signals of dissidence in his music.
Christina Volpini [iv-21]