The Case for Shostakovitch: Musical Genius of the Twentieth Century


Dmitri Shostakovich is one of the premier composers of the Twentieth century, spanning fifteen Symphonies and multiple plays during his storied career, but that’s not the only tale in his story. Shostakovich lived during one of the tensest times in Russian history: the communist regime under Stalin. The artist traipsed that fine line between the wrath of Stalin and his undying praise, becoming an interesting character within the span of history. How did this individual manage to express himself in a world that censored expression with threat of imprisonment and death?  

Shostakovich, a Harry Potter lookalike, lived in the early twentieth century, creating music throughout his life. He was a very prominent composer, gaining the acclaim of many Russian critics and becoming an icon to the people. Unfortunately, this is where Stalin interjects into this otherwise happy story. Stalin, angered at the subversive anti-oppression messages that Shostakovich hid in his work, left quite the angry review, ultimately ruining him. No-one, not even his friends, would talk to him. Conductors would not perform his work in fear of being attacked, and by all intents and purposes, he was an outcast. Many notable composers had ailments that gave credence to their work; Beethoven, for example, was deaf. Shostakovich was deafened by his government and was strained by the need to both express himself and appease the communist regime. 

I'm not asking to put Shostakovich on the same pedestal as the Bach's, Beethoven's, and Mozart's of the world. But as one of the premier composers of the twentieth century, I think he deserves more recognition as one of the (arguably) top two Russian composers of all time.

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