The composer Dmitri Shostakovich was born on this day in 1906 in St. Petersburg, Russia.
This noted Soviet-era composer, progeny of a musical family, showed promise at a young age. He was admitted to the Conservatory in Petrograd (later Leningrad; both alternate names for St. Petersburg) in 1919, when he was just thirteen years old. His first symphony appeared in 1926; it was written when he was only 19 years old as a graduation exercise from Maximilian Steinberg’s composition class, which he took at the Leningrad Conservatory.
From this point on, Shostakovich continued to have a prolific career, writing many symphonies, operas, ballets, string quartets, and other musical forms. Despite getting into occasional trouble with the communist party, he was able to continue his composition career until his death in 1975.
Shostakovich is one of my favorite twentieth century composers, as well as one of my favorite Russian composers overall. His legacy and musical output stand today as, paradoxically, both an example of the effects of an autocratic regime on individual artists and on then resilience of the creative spirit. Today is a day to celebrate a man who still made music in highly adverse circumstances.
- Note: this was originally published on my personal music blog. It appears here heavily modified from the original version.
- Edit on 2020-05-15: Small amount of information added. Formatting fixed
- Edit on 2020-08-28: Optimized for new site. Information added.