Russian composer and pianist Dmitri Dmitriyevich Shostakovich was born in St Petersburg on 25 September 1906 into a family of Polish Catholic heritage. His talent was spotted at the aged of eight, when he took piano lessons with his mother.
In 1919 he entered Glazunov's St Petersburg Conservatory, studying piano with Leonid Nikolayev and later Elena Rozanova, composition with Maximilian Steinberg and counterpoint and fugue with Nikolay Sokolov. His first major piece was his first Symphony, written as his graduation piece when he was twenty.
Life was to be difficult for an artist working within the Soviet regime, and already, political pressure was building. He was perceived to lack political zeal, and he failed an exam in Marxist methodology.
He began a double career - as both composer and pianist. When his dry performing style failed to impress some, and when Bruno Walter championed Shostakovich's symphony, performing it in Berlin in 1927, the young composer began to concentrate his efforts on composition, from then on playing mostly only his own music.
The story of his life is largely that of a battle with the Soviet authorities. Twice he fell from grace - in 1936 and 1948. On the first occasion, probably instigated by Stalin, the opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk (which had been immediately successful in 1934) was condemned as formalist, coarse, primitive and vulgar. As a result, his income dropped to about 25% of its previous level.
During the war, much of the Leningrad Symphony was written whilst Shostakovich and his family remained in the city under German siege. He added to wartime propaganda, having his picture taken as a fire warden and broadcasting to the Soviet people. The symphony, once completed, was adopted as a symbol of Russian resistance, in both the East and the West.
In 1948 many composers, Shostakovich included, were denounced for formalism in the Zhdanov decree. This time, most of his music was banned, and privileges were withdrawn from his family. The restrictions were lifted in 1949, but it was not until 1953, when Stalin died, that Shostakovich's official rehabilitation began.
In 1960 he was blackmailed into joining the Communist Party, and it was at this time that his health started to deteriorate, and the music began to be flavoured by Shostakovich's obsession with his own mortality.
He died in Moscow, of lung cancer, on 9 August 1975, and the authorities spent three days approving his official obituary before publication in Pravda.
Shostakovich's eclectic music is basically conservative - tonal and Romantic - but with elements of atonality and chromaticism, and sometimes tone rows. It makes much use of contrast between the static and the dynamic.
A selection of articles about Dmitri Shostakovich
Ensemble. Bravado and Introspection - Mike Wheeler listens to Rachmaninov and Shostakovich from Daniel Kharitonov, Vladimir Ashkenazy and the Philharmonia Orchestra
Ensemble. Rhythms and Algorithms - Mike Wheeler was at Sinfonia Viva's latest schools project
Ensemble. A Roman Pietas - Giuseppe Pennisi listens to Petrassi and Shostakovich in Rome
Ensemble. A Memorable Evening - Shostakovich's 'Leningrad' Symphony performed by two symphony orchestras in San Diego, and conducted by Valery Gergiev, heard by Ron Bierman
Ensemble. Gut-wrenching Performance - Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich from Arabella Steinbacher, Michael Sanderling and the Dresden Philharmonic Orchestra, heard by Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. Blood and Orgasms - Dmitri Shostakovich's 'Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District' in Naples, heard by Giuseppe Pennisi
CD Spotlight. Absolutely Superb - The Altius Quartet plays Shostakovich, recommended by Geoff Pearce. 'I hope that the Altius Quartet goes on to record the whole cycle, and perhaps the Piano Quintets and Trios as well. This is a very fine ensemble of exciting young musicians.'
Ensemble. Centres of Excellence - Roderic Dunnett looks back to the 2017 Three Choirs Festival at Worcester, and forward to 2018 in Hereford
CD Spotlight. Flaming Intensity - String quartets by Ullmann, Shostakovich and Laks impress Gerald Fenech. '... in this miraculous music you can also experience passion, hope, gratitude and the unlimited resilience of the human spirit.'
Ensemble. A Jubilant Celebration - Rachmaninov, Shostakovich, Offenbach and Tchaikovsky from Sheku Kanneh-Mason, Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, enjoyed by Mike Wheeler
CD Spotlight. Explosive Classics - A Chandos orchestral compilation, enjoyed by Gerald Fenech. '... the programme is as explosive as one can hope for.'
Ensemble. Concerts in Bucharest - Giuseppe Pennisi listens to Russian orchestral music at the George Enescu Festival
CD Spotlight. Rising Stars - Dmitri Shostakovich's complete concertos, recommended by Geoff Pearce. '... unreservedly first class, not just for the technical prowess of the soloists and orchestra but also in the artistic vision of all involved.'
Ensemble. Sex and Violence in Salzburg - Giuseppe Pennisi reports on Shostakovich's 'Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District'
Ensemble. Asking Better Questions? - Schubert, Barber, Beethoven and Shostakovich from the Brodsky Quartet, heard by Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. 1917 and Dante's 'Divine Comedy' - Giuseppe Pennisi samples the two themes at this summer's Ravenna Festival
Ensemble. A Neat Bit of Programming - Khachaturian, Rachmaninov, Musorgsky and Shostakovich from Freddy Kempf, the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra and Yuri Simonov, heard by Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. High Ambitions - Michael Landes was at the American Protégé Winners' recital on 14 May 2017 in Carnegie Hall
Ensemble. Civil Engagement - Giuseppe Pennisi discusses operas representing intrigues which couldn't be discussed in public
Ensemble. Something Rich and Strange - Mozart, Shostakovich and Beethoven from the Coull Quartet impress Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. 1917 - A Different Revolutionary Music - Giuseppe Pennisi listens to Yuri Bashmet and his Moscow Soloists ensemble
Ensemble. Genuinely Hard-won - Mike Wheeler listens to Nicholas Collon and the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra playing Shostakovich's Eighth Symphony, preceded by Stephen Johnson's illustrated introduction
Dies Irae - George Colerick takes a look at secular and romantic uses of the old Latin hymn
Ensemble. Close Partnership in Action - J S Bach, Shostakovich, Oliver Davis and Brahms from Katherine Jenkinson and Alison Farr, enjoyed by Mike Wheeler
Ask Alice - Classical Music Agony Aunt Alice McVeigh on the UK's 'Young Musician of the Year'
Ensemble. An Ambiguous Ending - Stravinsky, Sibelius and Shostakovich from Sophie Rosa and Derby Concert Orchestra, reviewed by Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. 'Fantasia' Around The World - Giuseppe Pennisi visits the big screen in Rome
Ensemble. Vivid Performances - Derby Concert Orchestra's Christmas concert, reviewed by Mike Wheeler
Musical Prowess - Robert Anderson's 'Opera Nights and Nightmares', read by Gerald Fenech
Ensemble. A Long Musical Summer - Giuseppe Pennisi attended the Chigiana International Festival in Siena
Ensemble. A Special Aura - Malcolm Miller describes Goldsmith College's special tribute to Alexander Ivashkin
Ensemble. Vividly Delivered - Tom Redmond's new spoken commentary to Britten's 'Young Person's Guide' impresses Mike Wheeler
CD Spotlight. Tonal Beauty - The Carducci Quartet plays Shostakovich, recommended by Stephen Francis Vasta. '... you really couldn't improve on this issue as an introduction.'
CD Spotlight. Heavy Laden - Performances of Shostakovich violin concertos, admired by Robert Anderson. 'Christian Tetzlaff manages both works' difficulties effortlessly ...'
CD Spotlight. Commanding Authority - Shostakovich and Schnittke string quartets, heard by Howard Smith. '... vivid sonic immediacy.'
CD Spotlight. Sheer Delight - Halida Dinova plays music for children, recommended by Howard Smith. '... palpable finesse.'
Ensemble. Collective Virtuosity - Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich, Rachmaninov and Britten from Natalie Clein, the Moscow Philharmonic and Yuri Simonov, heard by Mike Wheeler
CD Spotlight. Elusive and Disguised - Shostakovich's Fourth Symphony impresses Gerald Fenech. 'A strong competitor for the disc of the year ...'
Ensemble. Perfect Settings - New Year in Italy, by Giuseppe Pennisi
CD Spotlight. Emotional Range - Shostakovich and Weinberg string quartets, heard by Andrew Schartmann. '... virtuoso passages leap off the page with excitement ...'
Ensemble. A Lesson to be Learned - The Cleveland Orchestra welcomes back its music director Franz Welser-Möst, by Suzanne Torrey
Ensemble. A Great Deal of Fun - Maria Nockin takes a whiff of an early Shostakovich opera
Ensemble. A Gripping Start - Sunkwook Kim, Mark Elder and the Hallé Orchestra in Nottingham impress Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. Thanksgiving and Transcendence - Giuseppe Pennisi listens to orchestral and chamber concerts at the Salzburg Summer Festival
Ensemble. Household Rituals - Contemporary and modern music at Aix-en-Provence, heard by Giuseppe Pennisi
Ensemble. Monumental Effect - Three companies combine forces, experienced by Maria Nockin
Ensemble. Swift and Corrosive - Giuseppe Pennisi takes a sniff at Shostakovich's 'The Nose'
Great Delicacy - Jenny Lin at Notttingham's Royal Concert Hall, heard by Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. A Fabulous Evening - Hokusai Chamber Orchestra's memorial concert for the 2011 Japan Earthquake and Tsunami impresses Bill Newman
CD Spotlight. Excellent Throughout - Shostakovich and Prokofiev string quartets, heard by Howard Smith. '... flawless technical address and heartfelt aim ...'
Ensemble. Tender Lyricism - Andrew Gourlay and the Hallé Orchestra, heard by Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. Born to Excel - Recent concerts in London, heard by Bill Newman
CD Spotlight. Original Soloists - Shostakovich concertos, enjoyed by Robert Anderson. '... high-powered music-making ...'
Ensemble. Compellingly Memorable - Haydn, Shostakovich and Schubert from the Allegri Quartet, reviewed by Mike Wheeler
CD Spotlight. Beauteous Tone - Flautist Lisa Friend's debut disc, heard by Howard Smith. '... pleasing and ideally accomplished.'
Ensemble. Sensuous Depths - A selection of orchestral concerts at London's Royal Festival Hall, heard by Bill Newman
CD Spotlight. Sensitively Aware - Piano concertos and a violin sonata, heard by Robert Anderson. 'The performances do full justice to Shostakovich's demands ...'
Ensemble. Beautifully Precise - Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich and Ysaÿe from the Russian State Philharmonic Orchestra, heard by Mike Wheeler
CD Spotlight. An Incendiary Outcry - Shostakovich and contemporaries, heard by Howard Smith. '... little to quibble at ...'
Ensemble. A Memorable Occasion - Redwood, Shostakovich, Janácek and Mozart from André de Ridder and Sinfonia Viva, heard by Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. 2011 Specials - A roundup of London concerts enjoyed by Bill Newman, featuring recitals by Alice Sara Ott, the Emerson Quartet, Martin Fröst and Roland Pontinen, the Orchestra of the Polish EU Presidency, Kreeta-Julia Heikkilä and Roope Grondahl, and Martino Tirimo's Rosamunde Trio
Ensemble. Sharply Etched - Mozart and Shostakovich from the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, reviewed by Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. Brilliant Throughout - Kirill Karabits conducts the RPO, reviewed by Bill Newman
CD Spotlight. Powerful Capabilities - Piano trios by Weinberg and Shostakovich, heard by Howard Smith. '... notable gusto ...'
Persuasive Simplicity - Serghei Constantinov at Steinway Hall in London, reviewed by Bill Newman
DVD Spotlight. Not for Everyone - A collaboration between Turnage and Scofield, reviewed by Ron Bierman. '... well executed ...'
Ensemble. The Quality of Mercy - Giuseppe Pennisi visits the 2011 Aix-en-Provence Festival and reports on four of the six operas
CD Spotlight. A Towering Rage - Shostakovich's Symphony No 11, heard by Robert Anderson. '... total conviction.'
Ensemble. Musical Outlooks - Bill Newman attends a selection of concerts at London's Wigmore Hall
Ensemble. Unique Harmonies - Shostakovich's 'Moscow, Cherry Town', enjoyed by Maria Nockin
Profile. Humanizing Emotions - American conductor James Conlon talks to Maria Nockin
Ensemble. A Touching Portrait - Shostakovich chamber music, heard by Mary Isaac
Ensemble. Unmissable Talents - An array of artists at London's Wigmore Hall, reviewed by Bill Newman
CD Spotlight. Somewhat Lacklustre - Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich, heard by Howard Smith. '... a tumultuous, dynamic conclusion.'
CD Spotlight. Varied Moods - The Icicle Creek Piano Trio, heard by Robert Anderson. '... admirably captured ...'
Malcolm Smith (1932-2011) - A celebration, not an obituary, by Bill Newman
Ensemble. Full of Irony - Shostakovich's 'The Nose', reviewed by Giuseppe Pennisi
CD Spotlight. Deeply Satisfying - Elena Kuschnerova plays J S Bach, selected by Howard Smith. '... decisive and fresh as a dewfall.'
Ensemble. Fun with the Slides - Haydn, Shostakovich and Beethoven from The Aves Quartet, heard by Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. What does this symphony mean? - Shostakovich's 'Leningrad', heard by Giuseppe Pennisi
A Golden Treasury - Havergal Brian on European and American music, read by Patric Standford
Ensemble. A Memorable Night - The Israel Camerata Orchestra Jerusalem, heard by Giuseppe Pennisi
Ensemble. An Apt Mix - Alena Baeva, Terje Mikkelsen and The Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra of Moscow Radio, heard by Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. Electronics Prevails - 'Orphée' at the Roma-Europa Festival, reviewed by Giuseppe Pennisi
CD Spotlight. Impeccable - Music by Szymanowski, Webern and Schoeck, recommended by Ron Bierman. 'The quartet plays with authority throughout ...'
Spokesman for Soviet Society? - Colin Albin discusses Shostakovich and the state
CD Spotlight. Quite Orgiastic - Petrenko conducts Shostakovich, recommended by Gerald Fenech. '... very much on the ball ...'
Ensemble. Performance to Cherish - Lawrence Budmen submits a further report from the Tanglewood Festival 2010
Ensemble. A Remarkable Event - Paul Sarcich visits the West Cork Chamber Music Festival
Ensemble. Charm and Elan - Vladimir Ashkenazy, Ingrid Fliter and the Cleveland Orchestra, heard by Lawrence Budmen
A Vision of Shostakovich's String Quartet No 8 - A poem by J Jean Mayfield
Ensemble. Celebrating in Style - Derby Concert Orchestra's sixtieth birthday, with Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. Unusual and Different - Tan Dun's 'The Banquet', reviewed by Giuseppe Pennisi
CD Spotlight. A Spectral Atmosphere - Murray McLachlan plays music by Shostakovich and friends, recommended by Howard Smith. '... an outright triumph for the label and for McLachlan.'
Ensemble. Something Magical - Andris Nelsons conducts the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, heard by Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. A Class Of Its Own - Lawrence Budmen listens to the Cleveland Orchestra
CD Spotlight. Great Poise - Petrenko conducts Shostakovich symphonies, recommended by Paul Sarcich. '... care and thoughtfulness ...'
Ensemble. Shift of Perspective - The Stanford Quartet plays Mozart, Shostakovich, Borodin and Piazzolla, welcomed by Mike Wheeler
CD Spotlight. An Excellent Introduction - Chamber music by Steven R Gerber, heard by Patric Standford. '... impressive quality.'
Arts and the Colour of Politics - Béla Hartmann muses on growing social equality and democratization
Bizarre Perception - Alistair Hinton discusses a recent article on English music by David Hamilton
Ensemble. Especially Successful - Gillian Wills reports from the Australian Fesival of Chamber Music
Balancing Act - Beethoven in E flat, with Julian Jacobson and friends
Ensemble. Suite Brolga - Music of David Salisbury at the 2009 Australian Festival of Chamber Music, reported by Malcolm Tattersall
Ensemble. An Immensely Successful Event - Thomas Bielinski reports from the West Cork Chamber Music Festival 2009
Ensemble. A Heady Delight - Shostakovich's operetta 'Moskva, Cheryomushki', reviewed by Mike Wheeler
Life and Other Distractions - Béla Hartmann writes about the relevance of biography to an appreciation of the arts
Record Box. Craftsmanship and Spirit - Symphonies by James Cohn, heard by Patric Standford
Ensemble. Declamatory Eloquence - Mendelssohn, Haydn and Shostakovich from the Navarra Quartet, heard by Mike Wheeler
CD Spotlight. Compositional Mastery - Maxwell Davies' Naxos Quartets 9 and 10, applauded by Howard Smith. '... much to admire ...'
Ensemble. Beautifully Handled - Haydn, Dvorák and Lawrie Rose from the Iuventus Quartet, heard by Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. Rousing Performance - Mendelssohn, Ravel, Larsen and Tchaikovsky in South Florida, reviewed by Lawrence Budmen
Ensemble. A Near-perfect Occasion - Alice McVeigh braves the snow to listen to Fretwork at London's Wigmore Hall
Ensemble. A Passionate Attraction - The Cleveland Orchestra in Miami, reviewed by Lawrence Budmen
Ensemble. Meltingly Beautiful - Joshua Bell joins Vladimir Ashkenazy and the New World Symphony for music by Saint-Saëns and Mahler, reviewed by Lawrence Budmen
Record Box. Richly Moving - Jamie Walton plays Shostakovich, recommended by Alice McVeigh
Ensemble. Shade and Nuance - Chamber music by Julian Dawes, appreciated by Malcolm Miller
Ensemble. Intense Leadership - Sierra, Ginastera and Rachmaninov conducted by Alasdair Neale, reviewed by Lawrence Budmen
Ensemble. Tonal Contrast - A recital by Victoria Simonsen and Simon Lane, appreciated by Mike Wheeler
Record Box. Fundamentals of Censorship - Shostakovich's Fourth Symphony, reviewed by Robert Anderson
Ensemble. Velvety Tones - Farewell American performances by the Beaux Arts Trio and an Amernet String Quartet recital, reviewed by Lawrence Budmen
Record Box. Fascinating and Rewarding - Works by Kosçak Yamada, heard by Patric Standford
Ensemble. Wonderfully Refreshing - Antoni Wit and the Warsaw Philharmonic on tour impress Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. Wonderfully Inventive - Music and dance on the theme of creation, appreciated by Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. Faultless Unanimity - A concert by the Roberts Quartet, enjoyed by Mike Wheeler
Record Box. An Independent Voice - Patric Standford listens to orchestral music by Ester Mägi
DVD Spotlight. Ineluctably Absorbing - Ganelin Trio Priority live in Vilnius, enjoyed by Howard Smith. 'Jazz in Lithuania has never looked back.'
Ensemble. Sensitively Attuned - Dvorák, Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky from the Burlington Piano Trio, by Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. Music of Friends - Malcolm Miller attends a concert in London's Great Chamber of the Charterhouse
DVD Spotlight. Haunting Imagery - Tony Palmer tells the story of Shostakovich, reviewed by Howard Smith. '... a landmark among 20th century cinema documents.'
DVD Spotlight. Shostakovich's Shocker - 'Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk', reviewed by Robert Anderson. '... fully appropriate disorder ...'
Ensemble. An Impressive Partnership - A recital by Katherine Jenkinson and Alison Farr, reviewed by Mike Wheeler
CD Spotlight. Focus on Loneliness - Music by Lera Auerbach and Shostakovich, reviewed by Howard Smith. '... unfailing virtuosity.'
Ensemble. Lovingly Shaped - André de Ridder and Sinfonia Viva, enjoyed by Mike Wheeler
CD Spotlight. Achingly Beautiful - Leila Josefowicz plays Shostakovich, recommended by Howard Smith. '... her tightrope assurance is breathtaking.'
Ensemble. Three Premières - Malcolm Miller applauds the latest concert of music by Julian Dawes
Apropos 'le deluge' - A book about Shostakovich, reviewed by George Balcombe
Ensemble. Flair and Fidelity - A concert by the Aroha String Quartet, enjoyed by Howard Smith
Ensemble. A Surreal Evening - Mike Wheeler reports from the Buxton Festival
Ensemble. The Journey Begins - Malcolm Tattersall is at the Australian Festival of Chamber Music 2006
Ensemble. All Deception - Shostakovich's opera 'The Nose', enjoyed by David Wilkins
Ensemble. Artistic vision - Russian artists bring soul to Shostokovich, by Lawrence Budmen
Provocations - Alistair Hinton and Chad Wozniak discuss Patric Standford's recent 'Provocative Thoughts'
Ensemble. Magnificent playing - Mûza Rubackyté in recital, and on disc, appreciated by Bill Newman
Ensemble. Darkness to light - Malcolm Tattersall is at the Australian Festival of Chamber Music
CD Spotlight. Sheer modernity - Shostakovich's 2nd and 14th symphonies, appreciated by Patric Standford. '... a superb disc ...'
Ensemble. Rebel to rebel - Beethoven, Berg and others in Cleveland and New York, reviewed by Kelly Ferjutz
Ensemble. Glistening quality - Christian Tetzlaff plays Brahms, reviewed by Lawrence Budmen
Ensemble. Visions and miracles - Scott Yoo conducts music by Shostakovich, Christopher Theofanidis and Schubert, reviewed by Lawrence Budmen
Ensemble. Beauty and tragedy - Dennis Russell Davies at the Oberstdorf Music Festival, reported by Tess Crebbin
Ensemble. The transformative power of music - An eloquent Schumann Trio tops the Sarasota Festival, reviewed by Lawrence Budmen
Ensemble. Powerful Shostakovich - A valedictory performance by the Miami String Quartet, reviewed by Lawrence Budmen
Premature conclusions? - Alistair Hinton replies to Robert Hugill on the subject of composers and sexuality
CD Spotlight. Powerful and playful - Fritz Reiner conducts Bartók, admired by Robert Anderson. '... agonised intensity of utmost eloquence.'
Ensemble. Visions of sublimity - Lawrence Budmen listens to Yefim Bronfman and the American String Quartet
Ensemble. An imposing start - David Thompson was at the First Night of the BBC Proms in London.
Profile. A great schooling - Bill Newman talks to Igor Oistrakh as the 50th anniversary of the violinist's UK début approaches
CD Spotlight. Uncomfortable bedfellows - Shostakovich symphonies Nos 1 and 12, compared by David Thompson. 'Praise to all departments ...'
Ensemble. Shostakovich and Beethoven Trios - Malcolm Miller enjoys the Stockholm Arts Trio's UK début
Ensemble. Of head and heart - David Thompson samples three symphonies from two international orchestras at the BBC Proms
Ensemble. Celebration and Desolation - Andrew Campling, Musical Director of the London Docklands Singers, attended a Trio Melisma concert in London
Record box - Russian master. Basil Ramsey enjoying Shostakovich
CD Spotlight - Passion and gloom. '... Gwyneth George ... riding the technical difficulties with enviable ease ...' Rachmaninov and Shostakovich cello sonatas, an appraisal by Robert Anderson
CD Spotlight - Darkly brooding. '... a thoughtful and carefully prepared account, beautifully played and recorded.' Shostakovich's Sixth and Tenth Symphonies, with David Thompson
Ensemble - In memory. Keith Bramich reports on a McCabe première, given as part of Japan 2001
Paradise Moscow - Opera North's new production of the Shostakovitch musical at the Grand Theatre, Leeds, UK. Patric Standford was at the first night ...
(Features listed in grey are in our archive, and available to subscribers only.)