Dimitri Shostakovich was a Russian composer born September 25, 1906. He was a child prodigy both as a pianist ands composer, with his talent becoming more pronounced after he started receiving piano lessons from his mother at age 8. In 1918, he wrote the music for the funeral of two leaders of the Kadet Party. He entered the Petrograd Conservatory in 1919, but failed his first attempt of the exam in Marxist methodology in 1925 because of his lack of political zeal. His first musical accomplishment was the First Symphony, which he wrote for his graduation.
After his symphony was performed at the Berlin premiere in 1927, he embarked on a career as a composer. He wrote the Second Symphony in 1927 and started work on the satirical opera, The Nose. This was criticized by the RAPM as being formalist and received poor reviews. The composer, Ivan Sollertinsky, introduced him to the music of Gustav Mahler and this influence is evident in the Fourth Symphony.
He fell from grace in 1936 when he was attacked in the Pravda magazine and his music was condemned as being vulgar and primitive. The Fourth Symphony was not performed until 1961. He responded to the criticism by writing the Fifth Symphony in 1937, which was more conservative than his earlier works. He also wrote the first of his string quartets at this time and was appointed to a position as a teacher of composition at the Conservatory.
During the Siege of Leningrad, he wrote the first of three movements for the Seventh Symphony. He contributed to the propaganda efforts by posing as a fire warden and delivered reports to the Soviet people on radio broadcasts. He moved to Moscow in 1943, where he composed this eight and ninth symphonies and chamber music, such as the Second Piano Trio.
He was once again denounced for formalism in 1948 and for the next few years he wrote film music along with his compositions to earn money to pay his rent. The restrictions on his movements were lifted in 1949, at which time he wrote Song of the Forests, in which he praised Stalin. He was made a deputy of the Supreme Soviet in 1951. After Stalin’s death in 1953, he composed the Tenth Symphony, which features a number of musical quotations and codes that have not yet been figured out.
He joined the Communist Party in 1960, but his later life was marked by illness and a debilitating condition that affected his right hand. However, he still continued to compose with such works as the Fourteenth Symphony in 1971, which he dedicated to his friend Benjamin Britten. He passed away on August 9, 1975.