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Brief synopsis' of the most popular classical music by

Dimitri Shostakovich...

Russian, St. Petersburg 25 SEP 1906 ~ Moscow, 9 AUG 1975
Operas, ballets, Incidental Music
Film Scores, Orchestral Works, 15 Symphonies,
Vocal, Choral and Chamber Works

  • Shostakovich, Dmitry (1906 - 1975) 'Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk District'.
    Trained after the 1917 Communist Revolution at St. Petersburg Conservatory as a pianist and composer. His first opera was sucessful. It was based on Leskov and revised as Katerina Ismailova, this was condemned by the government after disapproval of Stalin.

  • Shostakovich 'Preludes' Op 24
    The model for the Shostakovich 24 preludes and Fugues is Bach's 'Well Tempered Clavier'. Composed during a two year period in 1950 following the 200th anniversary of Bach's death. The preludes were arranged for Strings by Victor Poltoratsky.

  • Shostakovich Sym No 1
    in f, Op 10
    Written as a teenager in 1925 while attending school in Leningrad.(St. Petersburg). Symphony won immediate sucess, but his career varied with the political climate.

  • Shostakovich Sym No 2 'To October' Op 14
    A symphonic dedication inspired by a poem of Alexander Bezymensky which describes the suffering and oppression of the masses before they revolted. For chorus and orchestra it was written in 1920 for the tenth anniversary of the October Revolution.

  • Shostakovich Sym No 3 in E-flat, the work is entitled 'The First of May'. Written to commemorate the Russian May Day. The chorus singing the words of Kirssanov. Like the second symphony this was not one of his most popular works.
    He supressed the work during the Stalin regime. Still after Stalin's death the work was not performed due to the stigma of the earlier unpopular symphonies. In the mid 1950's conductor Kiril Kondrashin showed interest in his works and premiered the fourth symphony at the end of 1961, and outside the USSR in 1962 at an Edinburgh ['ED in Ber' ah'] festival performance.

  • Shostakovich Sym No 4 Op 20
    Wikipedia tells us it was begun, after some preliminary sketching, in September 1935 and completed in May 1936. Halfway through its composition the composer was denounced for formalism in the infamous Pravda editorial "Chaos Instead of Music". The symphony entered rehearsals in December of 1936, almost a year after the Pravda attack, but he withdrew it before this scheduled premiere, and it sat on the shelf unplayed for 25 years (although a two-piano reduction was published in 1946). It retained its designation as his Fourth Symphony, but it was not performed until 12 December 1961, by the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra under Kyril Kondrashin.

  • Shostakovich Sym No 5 Op 47
    It appeared in 1937 with the subtitle "A Soviet Artists reply to Just Criticism". It had immediate success in Russia but took a while longer to achieve popularity elsewhere. It was composed and orchestrated in three months between April and July, 1937. FP in Leningrad on November 21, 1937 as part of the 20th anniversary celebration of the 1917 revolution.

  • Shostakovich Sym No 6 op 54
    Composed in 1938 and first heard in 1939 in Leningrad, it is perhaps one of his finist scores but not typically programatic in style. It was not received well at its Moscow premiere on December 3rd 1939. It has, however become one of his most popular works.

  • Shostakovich Sym No 7

  • Shostakovich Sym No 8
    Composed during the second World war, thought to be a commentary on war and the suffering of the Russian people. FP in 1943 in Moscow under conductor Vevgeny Mravinsky to whom the work is dedicated.

  • Shostakovich Sym No 9
    Composed in 1948 and thought to be frivolous by the official musical establishment. After the death of Stalin in 1953, this, and most of Shostakovh's works became more popular.

  • Shostakovich Sym No 10 In e minor, Op 93
    Composed in 1953 following the death of Joseph Stalin at the end of the Second World War in 1945. It was a less restrictive era in Russia. The work is referred to as an 'Optomistic Tragedy'.

  • Shostakovich Sym No 11

  • Shostakovich Sym No 12 op 112
    Titled 'The Year 1917'. The bolshevic coup of Lenin set in place 70 years on the road to no where. An observance made in 1987 'October Revolution' festivities.

  • Shostakovich Sym No 13 op 113, 'Babi Yar'
    A Symphonic Cantata written in 1962 to five poems by the young poet Yevtushenko. It was banned in the Soviet Union after the FP because of its controversial content. In one part of the text protests Soviet anti-semitism. In another part called 'Humor' the work attacks the hypocracy of the 'czar-kings'. In a part called 'Career' it salutes men of genius like Galileo and Tolstoy who asserted themselves against false charges from the state.
    The work remained unpublished for many years. Although performed in Russia three times before it was withdrawn, the work was never again heard until a western performance in Philadelphia in 1970. It is scored for a male chorus with bass soloist. Basically it is a statement of protest.

  • Shostakovich Sym No 14
    This symphony was written in 1969 for soprano, bass, strings and percussion. It contains eleven poems of images of death. Dedicated to Benjamin Britten who conducted the FP in 1970.

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