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A Shostakovich Timeline

St Basil's Cathedral - Moscow

Read a timeline of Shostakovich's life, including details of his most important works and life events.


    Shostakovich is born in St Petersburg on September 25 to Dmitrij Boleslavovich Shostakovich (1875-1922), a government inspector of weights and measures, and his wife Sofja Vasilevna (1878-1955).


      At nine years old he starts to play the piano under his mother's guidance.

      He begins formal piano lessons with O. F. Gljasser, later with her husband I. A. Gljasser.


        Shostakovich is admitted to the Petrograd Conservatory. He studies piano with Leonid Nikolayev and composition with Maximilian Shteynberg. He also works with Glazunov.

        He writes his Opus 1. Scherzo in F sharp.


          Marries Nina Vasilevna Varzar (mother of his two children).


            Shostakovich's graduation piece, Symphony No. 1 is premiered in Leningrad to great acclaim.


              Symphony No 2, 'To October', is commissioned for the 10th anniversary of the revolution.


                The Opera 'Lady Macbeth of the Mtsenks district' is started. It was first produced in 1934 in Leningrad and Moscow.  There were almost 200 performances of the opera by the end of 1936.


                  Pravda attacks the opera describing it as 'Chaos instead of Music'.  Shostakovich decides to respond in his Fifth Symphony.


                    The Fifth Symphony is published and came to be known as 'The creative reply of the Soviet artist to justified criticism'.


                      Shostakovich receives the Stalin Prize for his Piano Quintet.


                        Besieged in Leningrad, he composed the first three movements of his 7th Symphony, which he later dedicated to the city.


                          The microfilmed score of the 7th symphony was smuggled out of Russia and Toscanini conducted the NBC Symphony Orchestra to an audience of millions. This work became the symbol of resistance against Nazism.


                            Cultural purges. Composers including Prokofiev and Shostakovich are accused of embracing the 'cult of atonality, dissonance and discord...'.


                              After a pause of eight years, Shostakovich returns to the symphonic form and produces his 10th Symphony.  It is recognised as a masterpiece both here and abroad.


                                Nina, Shostakovich's wife, dies.


                                  Marries Margarita Andreevna Kajnova, an activist in the Young Communist League.


                                    He writes the Cello Concerto no. 1. It was dedicated to Rostropovich who gave the first performance in Lenigrad.

                                    Divorces Margarita.


                                      String Quartets no. 7 & 8 are composed. No. 8 is dedicated 'to the memory of the victims of fascism and the war'.


                                        Despite a gradual liberalisation of the arts, Shostakovich becomes rather more conservative and chastises the musical avant garde.  He writes his Symphony no 12 'To the memory of Lenin' or 'The year 1917'.


                                          Marries Irina Antonova Supinskaja.


                                            Shostakovich develops a heart complaint from which he never fully recovers.  He is also troubled by severe arthiritis.

                                            He is named 'Hero of Socialist Labour'.  He produces his String Quartet no. 11.


                                              Shostakovich is elected as an honorary member to the French Academy of Arts and Sciences.

                                              He produces the Viola Sonata, Op 47, his last completed work.  He dies on 9 August in Moscow.

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