Happy Birthday Dimitri Shostakovich!

Happy Birthday Shostakovich!

Today is the birthday of Dimitri Shostakovich. He is the Soviet Union’s most celebrated composer and one of the major composers of the 20th century.

Shostakovich was born in Saint Petersburg, Russia in 1906. One of three children, he was the middle child. He began taking piano lessons from his mother at the age of 9. Dimitri had a great memory; he was often caught playing the previous lesson’s music while pretending to read different music placed in front of him.

Dimitri entered the Petrograd Conservatory at the age of 13. The First Symphony, his first major musical achievement, premiered in 1926. It was actually written as his graduation piece at the age of only 19.

Initially working as both a pianist and composer, Shostakovich eventually decided to focus purely on composition. In 1941 he tried to enlist in the military after the outbreak of war between the Soviet Union and Germany. However, he was turned away because of his poor eyesight. In later life Shostakovich suffered from chronic ill health (however, this wasn’t enough to persuade him to give up vodka and cigarettes!)

From 1958 he suffered a debilitating condition which affected his right hand, leading to him eventually giving up piano-playing. He also suffered several heart attacks and several falls, breaking both his legs.

On 9th August 1975 Shostakovich died of heart failure. His last work was the Viola Sonata, which was first officially performed after his death on 1st October 1975.

Fun fact: The Shostakovich Peninsula on Alexander Island, Antarctica is named after him!

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