29 Sep 2010

Composer of the Week – Dmitri Shostakovich

Happy late birthday to Soviet Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich, who was born September 25, 1906.
Even though he was born and lived in the 20th century, it seems like there are so many rumors, shrouded tales, misconceptions, and untold stories about Shostakovich. There are stories of his popularity as a composer, the denouncement of his music by the government, and his incredibly volatile relationship with Stalin. Late in life he joined the Communist Party, and there are as many theories about that act as there are months in the year.
The only truth I know is that he’s an absolutely fascinating composer, who led a very difficult life. Here are a few of my favorite of his works:
The first movement of his Cello Sonata, performed by Julian Lloyd Webber and John McCabe. Written in 1934, about the same time as his opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk.

From Jewish Folk Poetry, song #9, “The Good Life”. Shostakovich write this in 1948, but it didn’t have its premiere until 1955, due to Soviet anti-Semitism.

A cool recording of Shostakovich himself playing his Piano Concerto No. 2, first movement.

The first movement of his Symphony No. 13, (Babi Yar), which is a denouncement of Soviet anti-Semitism, and a series of massacres that took place during the second World War.