25 September 1906 - 9 August 1975 (age 68)

Shostakovich was one of the most important classical composers of the 20th century.
He had a difficult relationship with the Soviet authorities and his music was banned twice.



The Man




portrait of Shostakovich


Born: Dmitry (Dmitriyevich) Shostakovich, 25 September 1906 St.Petersburg, Russia
Father: Dmitri Boleslavovich Shostakovich, biologist and engineer.
Mother: Sofiya Vasilievna Kokoulina, pianist.
Siblings: 2nd of 3
1st wife: Nina Varzar, died 1954
2nd wife: Margarita Kainova, married 1956, divorced 3 years later.
3rd wife: Irina Supinskaya, married 1962.
Children: daughter Galina, son Maxim
Died: 9 August 1975, Moscow aged 68
Cause of death: lung cancer
Grave: Novodevichy Cemetery, Moscow. see findagrave

Alternative spellings: Shostakovitch, Schostakowitsch


- The Nose
- The Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk
- The Age of Gold
- The Bolt
- The Limpid Stream
- 15 Symphonies
- 2 Piano Concertos
- 2 Violin Concertos
- 2 Cello Concertos
- various theatre and film scores
Chamber Music
- 15 String Quartets
- various sonatas
Vocal Music
- many songs
- arrangements of folksongs
- various choral works
- many pieces for solo piano

Shostakovich in art
A fascinating collection of images - art, portraits, caricatures, cartoons, album covers and postage stamps.

The Man

Health: Suffered from ill health in later life. He was a heavy smoker and liked his vodka. When he was 52 he started to have problems with his right hand which eventually prevented him from playing the piano. It turned out to be polio. He had heart attacks when he was 60 and 65. He also had several falls, breaking both his legs.
Personality: An obsessive including an obsession for cleanliness and timekeeping. Nervous, fidgety, facial ticks and grimaces. Shy and diffident and unable to say 'no'.
Sport: He was a qualified football referee. He supported the Zenit Leningrad team. He enjoyed playing card games especially Patience.
Religion: agnostic.

Film and video

Having died in 1975 there is abundant footage of him recorded on film and video. There is a lot on internet sites such as YouTube and there are various documentaries available.

My favourite is Tony Palmers prizewinning film "Testimony"(1988) with Ben Kingsley playing Dmitri.
It won the Gold medal at the 1987 New York Film and TV Festival. Click on the Amazon links below for reviews and more info.
at Amazon.com

or at Amazon.co.uk

Close Up - a documentary film on his Life and Times



Age 6: Mother gave him piano lessons. Child prodigy
Age 13: Entered Petrograd Conservatory
Age 19: Wrote and premiered his First Symphony.
AGe 26: Married Nina Varzar
Age 28: His second opera 'Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk' won him international acclaim
Age 29: Declared by Stalin to be 'an enemy of the people'. His music was banned and the press ran a smear campaign against him.
Age 31: Published his Symphony No5 with a subtitle "A Soviet Artist's Reply to Just Criticism". This put him back in favour with the government.
Age 32: The first of his 15 string quartets
Age 34: Hitler invaded Russia (June 1941). Tried to join the Red Army but failed because of poor eyesight. Joined the Leningrad Fire Service.
Wrote his Symphony No7 'The Leningrad' which was played all over the world representing Russia's resistance to the Nazis.
Age 37: Moved to Moscow. Appointed professor of music at the Conservatory. The end of World War II brought the return of the repression of the arts by Stalin.
Age 42: (1948) Together with other leading Russian composers, eg Prokofiev and Khachaturian, he was stripped of honours and positions, accused of writing 'anti-people music' and his music was banned again.
Age 47: Stalin died. Composed his Symphony No 10, thought to be a musical portrait of Stalin.
Age 48: 1st wife Nina died. Married again two years later only to be divorced three years after that.
Age 55: Joined the Communist Party
Age 55 - 61: Secretary of the Union of Soviet Composers. His health began to deteriorate
Age 68: Died of lung cancer.

Waltz 2: his most popular work on YouTube

Symphony No. 5
Bernstein NYPO

Romance from 'The Gadfly'
Nicola Benedetti violin, Jiří Bělohlávek conductor
BBC Symphony Chorus BBC Symphony Orchestra
Last Night of the Proms 2012

Symphony 10 - mvt IV
Gustavo Dudamel and the Simon Bolivar Youthe Orchestra

Shostakovich Quotes

- "A creative artist works on his next composition because he is not satisfied with his previous one."

- "I always try to make myself as widely understood as possible; and if I don't succeed, I consider it my own fault."

Links, sources, where to go for more information

Answers.com various reference sites including Wikipedia


Shostakovichiana a collection of documents, photographs and articles

The London Shostakovich Orchestra

Photographs a load of photographic portraits

More Russian Composers

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