Shostakovich Revisited (by Cynthia Young)




The year 1934 began auspiciously for Dmitri Shostakovich. He was an established composer and respected conservatory teacher. His opera, Lady MacBeth of Mtensk was in rehearsal for its highly anticipated premiere performance. He embarked on an affair with one of his students, who was a singer in his opera, and divorced his wife.

It was during this romantic interlude that he wrote the Sonata for Cello and Piano that we will hear performed on April 27th. However he may have been somewhat romantically conflicted! After the completion of the Sonata, he ended his affair and re-married his wife who was pregnant with their daughter.

This Sonata was the last work Shostakovich wrote before his difficulties began with Joseph Stalin and the Soviet Communist Party. His subsequent compositions were frequently denounced as suffering from decadent bourgeois Western influences, negatively impacting his career. Although he was never imprisoned for this, as many of his colleagues were, he lost his teaching position and had a difficult time obtaining commissions for new works. Despite this, he continued composing and is now regarded as one of the greatest composers of the 20th century.

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