Wednesday, September 25, 2013

September 25 - Dmitri Shostakovich

Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich was born on September 25, 1906, in St. Petersburg. A child prodigy on the piano, he composed his First Symphony at age 19. It was praised by major musical figures, including conductor Leopold Stokowski. But in 1936 he ran afoul of the Communist bureaucracy when Joseph Stalin and the Politburo publicly derided an opera he had composed, and he was denounced by the newspaper Pravda. That year, Stalin began his “Great Purge.” Shostakovich put away his Western-style Fourth Symphony and, in 1937, composed a pivotal work in his career, his heroic Fifth Symphony, which Soviet officials viewed as a personal perestroyka (political "rehabilitation"). Ironically, however, the monumental work was a huge success among the Russian public for its subtle condemnation of Stalin’s brutal repression. Listeners openly wept during the graceful yet mournful Largo movement, which reflected the terrible period in which Stalin sent more than seven million Russians to the Gulag (labor camps).

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