Ah! Err, hello. My name is Dmitri Dmitiyevich Shostakovich, and I am a Soviet composer, pianist, and, I must admit, a very avid football fan. I have written fifteen symphonies and fifteen quartets. Life certainly hasn’t been easy- I’ve been denounced twice because the State wasn’t too happy with my music, and I’ve lived through both world wars. But despite all that, I’ve kept my sense of humor and write music no matter what. Some people say if you listen carefully to some of my pieces, you’ll find secret messages. But... I’d rather not tell. You can decide for yourself.
Shostakovich’s musical style changed drastically over the course of his career. His early works in the 20s and 30s were influenced by composers like Hindemith and Stravinsky, and were often experimental and avant-garde. His middle period, from 1936 to 1953, was less daring, but introduced new elements, like themes based on klezmer music (a kind of folk music originating in Eastern-European Jewish communities) and the string quartet, a genre he would continue in the late period, which contained music that was often very heavy and bleak, but returned to some experimental techniques.
Shostakovich’s music often featured trombones, timpanis, and xylophones, which can sound both comedic and intimidating. Many of his symphonies featured different kinds of music, such as military marches, folk dances, and a combination of classical and new styles, much like those of one of his favourite composers, Gustav Mahler. His music is also known for including quotations from both his pieces and the works of other composers, as well as combinations of notes that spelled out words and names, the most famous being the DSCH Motif. As a result, these motifs have led many scholars to debate what sort of secret meanings could be hidden in the music.
Shostakovich wrote for a wide variety of musical genres, including symphonies, chamber music, suites, ballets, operas, film music, song cycles, and more. Some works have even been discovered after his death, most recently his Impromptu for Viola and Piano, found as late as 2017.