September 01, 2001

The Genius of Shostakovich

During his life, Dmitry Shostakovich, by now recognized as one of the major composers of the twentieth century, was too often judged for what he said in words, rather than through his music. Today, over a quarter century after his death, we can look more objectively at his life, work, and legacy.


Dmitry Dmitriyevich Shostakovich was born in St. Petersburg, on September 25, 1906. Despite his Jewish-sounding name, he was of Russian and Polish ancestry. Historically, Poles were the rebels within the Russian empire and had to be repeatedly subjugated. No doubt influenced by his heritage, Shostakovich, from childhood, was politically aware. It should come as no surprise that his first compositions were titled “Hymn to Freedom,” “Revolutionary Symphony,” and “Funeral March to the Victims of the Revolution.”

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