Dmitrij Schostakowitsch

Russian composer Dmitrij Schostakowitsch, born on September 25th 1906 in St. Petersburg, was in a difficult artistic position. He was severely restricted in his artistic freedom by the severe strictures of the Soviet Union's cultural ideologues and could only attain it by making concessions to preordained æsthetics. Condemned in 1936 by the influential political organ, "Pravda", as an anti-ideological musician, Schostakowitsch changed his style starting with the fifth of his fifteen symphonies: the progressive, partially experimental musical language of the early symphonies and the opera "Lady Macbeth of Mtzensk" gave way to a conservative, classicistic style with the obligatory emotional glorification of socialistic ideas. Even so, Schostakowitsch put up a subversive resistance, supplying the required pathos, but nevertheless composing hollow phrases recognized as such by anyone with any musical understanding (such as in the Fifth Symphony). This tight-rope walk between the extremes of subjugation and resistance was what enabled the composer to survive in artistic and human terms during those difficult times. Besides his symphonies, solo concerti, operas and chamber music, Schostakowitsch also composed several film scores.

He died on August 9th 1975 in Moscow.