Born: 25 September 1906
Died: 9 August 1975
This weekend marks the 40th anniversary of Dmitri Shostakovich’s death. A figure who famously fell in and out of favour with the Soviet government, the exact details of Shostakovich’s life and work generate as much discussion and controversy as any composer, while his music has become, if anything, more popular than ever before. With his distinctive D-S-C-H motif based on his initials, and thrilling orchestral works, we take a look at some of the best ways to experience Shostakovich over the next few weeks:
Sunday 9 August: Carducci Quartet at the Globe Theatre
After a successful warm up weekend at Cheltenham Music Festival earlier this year, the Carduccis ramp up the intensity with all 15 String Quartets played in one day at the Globe Theatre in London.
Wednesday 19 August: Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Charles Dutoit, Prom 45
Shostakovich is featured in several BBC Proms this year. This concert features the composer’s 15th Symphony, with references not only to his own musical code but motifs from the William Tell Overture by Rossini and leitfmotifs from Wagner’s operas. This Prom is also special for another reason: it is Elisabeth Leonskaja’s first performance at the Proms for nearly 30 years, and she performs Mozart’s 22nd Piano Concerto in E flat.
Sunday 23 August: Boston Symphony Orchestra/Andris Nelsons, Prom 51
For his second Prom this year, Andris Nelsons conducts the BSO in Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony. Some readers may have come across it recently in association with Beyonce, but this symphony is no joke. Written following the death of Joseph Stalin, the Tenth is full of Shostakovich’s D-S-C-H motif and the plaintive ‘Elmira’ theme. Elmira Nazirova was a student of Shostakovich, and his love for her calls out in the theme’s twelve repetitions, played on the horn in the third movement.
With each Top Three article we will be posting a playlist of works by the composer. You can view the Shostakovich playlist here.