Dmitri Shostakovich: Creative Musical Genius
"In Shostakovich we have the paradigm of a new, essentially political form of complex inward adjustments, one which requires a new kind of symphony." (Norris 177) Although a lifelong communist and an intense Russian patriot (he applied for and was granted membership into the Communist party in 1960), Dmitri Shostakovich composed under constant fear of public condemnation, often for what he perceived as the most contradictory reasons. He strongly believed in a profound bond between the composer and his society which enabled him to work, survive, and develop, but also which fostered an air of confusion when he felt he was wrongly criticized. In 1968, he was quoted as saying, "Soviet music is a weapon in the ideological battle. Artists cannot stand as indifferent observers in this struggle." (Blokker 133) He believed that composers could not retreat into private, creative worlds; rather, they must deal with the socio-political problems of the day, however bitter the experience. He felt that 'good' music lifts and heartens the people for work; it might be tragic, but it must be strong. This quotation reinforces his interdependence with the Soviet state. He realized that his works were entirely public, and as such, should be written with not only the audience in mind, but also with the thoughts of how a strict government might react.
As a youth, Shostakovich believed that he was to be the successor to Beethoven's throne as the compositional genuis. It is safe to assume that no composer until Shostakovich had been so central to the history of his time, or had so consistently sought to symphonically express the sufferings and aspirations of his contemporaries as had Beethoven. Dmitri Shostakovich, composer of fifteen symphonies, developed a musical language all of his own, one that could communicate emotions of anger, sadness, joy, and cynicism (he never underestimated his audience's ability to uncover the meanings of his compositions). Shostakovich, a musical contemporary of Stravinsky who decided to remain in Russia, is a creative genius that was influenced tremendously by his native land, the nation where he produced his influential symphonies. Although he did not create a completely new style, he did create a new language within the existing late-nineteenth, early-twentieth century musical idiom. His creativity was developed in direct response to the political climate in which he lived, as a means to express himself within the acceptable standards of his homeland.
His Development and Works
Shostakovich was born to his parents Dmitri Boleslavovich and Sofia on 25 September 1906 in the city formerly known as St. Petersburg, now known as Leningrad. Although his parents did not push formal music training on young Dmitri, he began studying the piano from his mother at the age of ten. World War I, raging at this historic time, was 'kind' to the Shostakovich household, as the elder Dmitri received...