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Dmitry Shostakovich



Russian composer Dmitry Shostakovich (1906–75) was one of the most significant musical figures of the 20th century, acclaimed for his work across a wide range of genres. His stage works include the operas Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, The Gamblers and The Nose, and the ballet The Bolt.

Shostakovich was born in St Petersburg. He started learning the piano in 1915 and around that time began to compose. He entered the St Petersburg Conservatory 1919 and later that year composed his op.1, a scherzo for orchestra. His First Symphony, completed in 1925, brought him international attention. Lady Macbeth was a great success on its 1934 premiere, but an official denunciation in 1936 imperilled Shostakovich’s position. His relationship with the authorities would be unsettled for the rest of his life, seeing him proclaimed as a national hero (for example, with his Seventh Symphony in 1941) and denounced again in 1948, while formerly blacklisted works were received with international acclaim in his final decades. In addition to the symphonies composed throughout his life, his many major works include the fifteen string quartets, two violin concertos, two cello concertos, the Violin Sonata and the Viola Sonata.

Shostakovich had a profound impact on the cultural life of the Soviet Union, not only through his music but also as a teacher, writer and administrator. His musical influence transcended borders, and he is often described as the greatest symphonist of the 20th century.

News and features

How St Petersburg has inspired writers and composers

How St Petersburg has inspired writers and composers

2 November 2016

Russia’s second city has inspired numerous great ballets, operas, plays and works of literature.

How do you begin to make sense of <em>The Nose</em>?

How do you begin to make sense of The Nose?

1 November 2016

Audiences and academics have long tried to understand the Gogol tale that inspired Shostakovich's opera – is it satire taken to extremes, or is it something else entirely?

‘I never thought my opera debut would be as a dancing nose’

‘I never thought my opera debut would be as a dancing nose’

31 October 2016

Dancer Cameron Ball reveals what it's like performing in Barrie Kosky’s surreal new Royal Opera production of Shostakovich’s The Nose.