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Shostokovich

25, 1906, St. Petersburg, Russia Died: Aug. 9, 1975, Moscow Shostakovich was a Russian composer, renowned particularly for his 15 symphonies, numerous chamber works, and concerti, many of them written under the pressures of government-imposed standards of Soviet art. Shostakovich was the son of an engineer. He entered the Petrograd (formerly St. Petersburg, subsequently Leningrad) Conservatory in 1919, where he studied the piano with Leonid Nikolayev until 1923 and composition until 1925 with Aleksandr Glazunov and Maksimilian Steinberg. He participated in the Chopin International Competition for Pianists in Warsaw in 1927 and received an honorable mention but made no subsequent attempt to pursue the career of a virtuoso, confining his public appearances as a pianist to performances of his own works. Even before his keyboard success in Warsaw, he had had a far greater success as a composer with the First Symphony (1924-25) which quickly achieved worldwide currency. The symphony's stylistic roots were numerous; the influence of composers as diverse as Tchaikovsky and Paul Hindemith (and Shostakovich's contemporary Sergey Prokofiev) is clearly discernible. In the music Shostakovich was to write in the next few years he submitted to an even wider range of influences. The cultural climate in the Soviet Union was remarkably free at that time; even the music of Igor Stravinsky and Alban Berg, then in the avant-garde, was played. Bla Bartk and Paul Hindemith visited Russia to perform their own works, and Shostakovich openly experimented with avant-garde trends. His satiric opera The Nose, based upon Nikolay Gogol's story, displayed a comprehensive awareness of what was new in Western music, although already it seems as if the satire is extended to the styles themselves, for the avant-garde sounds are contorted with wry humor. Not surprisingly, Shostakovich's incomparably finer second opera, Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District (later ...

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