Saint Petersburg (Russia), 1919 – Saint Petersburg (Russia), 2006

Galina Ustvolskaya was born on June 17, 1919 in Petrograd (now St. Petersburg). She studied at the Professional School of Music (1937-39), then at the State Conservatory (1939-47), under the direction of Dmitri Shostakovich. “I am convinced that Galina Ustvolskaya’s music will be recognized throughout the world by all those who attach decisive importance to sincerity in music,” wrote Shostakovich, citing her student’s Trio in his Suite sur des poèmes de Michel-Ange. After serving in a military hospital during World War II, she was appointed professor of composition at the N. A.Rimsky-Korsakov Saint Petersburg State Conservatory (in Leningrad, where her students included Boris Tishchenko. Between 1960, the year of the tragic death of her friend, composer Yuri Balkachin, and 1970, she only composed the Duet for violin and piano (1964). Secluding herself, she constructed a body of work that to date includes some twenty scores, including six piano sonatas and five symphonies, on the margins of the official aesthetic and often only revealed later (written in 1947, the Sonata for piano no 1 was premiered in 1974). At the end of the 1980s, Reinbert de Leeuw, the privileged performer and Composition no 2 — Dies Irae, greatly contributed to the discovery of Ustvolskaya’s music in Western Europe. Since 1990 no new composition was published. In 2004, Olga Gladkova published a biography, shedding new light on Ustvolskaya’s relationship with Shostakovich. Galina Ustvolskaya died in St. Petersburg on December 22, 2006.