Dmitri Shostakovich

On this date in 1906, Dmitri Shostakovich was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, with a heritage of proud Siberian roots. His family initially welcomed Lenin and the revolution as a chance for real freedom and equality. Although he became privately disillusioned with the excesses of Stalin, Shostakovich had little choice but to “go through the motions,” eventually joining the Communist Party and fulfilling many official functions as a representative of the government due to his celebrity status as a great composer. He didn’t care about politics, except when he could use his connections to truly help people.

“For me there is no joy in life other than music,” Shostakovich wrote to a friend. “All life for me is music.” The prolific and tireless Shostakovich wrote nine operas and ballets, 37 film scores, 15 symphonies, hundreds of works for choral, solo, piano, concerti, incidental music, chamber and instrumental music. He is one of the most admired composers of the 20th century.

His Eighth Symphony (which he was forced to declare a “war symphony”) was a celebration of life: “I can sum up the philosophical conception of my new work in three words: life is beautiful,” he said during a 1943 interview. “Everything that is dark and gloomy will rot away, vanish, and the beautiful will triumph.” (Shostakovich: A Life, 2000.) D. 1975.

Freedom From Religion Foundation