Composer Dmitri Shostakovich | Credit: INTERFOTO / Alamy


A Russian composer and pianist, Shostakovich was one of the most celebrated composers of the twentieth century. Born and raised in St Petersburg, he took piano lessons from the age of nine and began his studies, in both piano and composition, at his home city’s fabled Conservatory in 1919. He wrote his First Symphony, a work of remarkable originality, at the age of 19. He was quickly established at the forefront of young Soviet composers.

Shostakovich went on to write 15 symphonies including the Fifth Symphony which, with its universal message of triumph achieved from adversity, made him a public hero. During World War II, he responded to the Nazi invasion of Russia and Hitler’s blockade of his native city by composing his Seventh Symphony. Performed extensively throughout Russia, even in St Petersburg (Leningrad) itself, it also became an inspiring symbol of heroic resistance in the West.


His extensive output includes film music, a series of chamber works and concerti, and the opera Lady Macbeth of the Mtensk District, created under the pressures of government-imposed standards of Soviet art. These works embody a unique perspective on the entire Soviet era.