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dmitri shostakovich Quotes

Dmitri Shostakovich Quotes

Birth Date: 1906-09-25 (Tuesday, September 25th, 1906)
Date of Death: 1975-08-09 (Saturday, August 9th, 1975)



    • I live in the USSR, work actively and count naturally on the worker and peasant spectator. If I am not comprehensible to them I should be deported.
    • There can be no music without ideology. The old composers, whether they knew it or not, were upholding a political theory. Most of them, of course, were bolstering the rule of the upper classes.
    • What can be considered human emotions? Surely not only lyricism, sadness, tragedy? Doesn't laughter also have a claim to that lofty title? I want to fight for the legitimate right of laughter in 'serious' music.
    • If they cut off both hands, I will compose music anyway holding the pen in my teeth.
    • A great piece of music is beautiful regardless of how it is performed. Any prelude or fugue of Bach can be played at any tempo, with or without rhythmic nuances, and it will still be great music. That's how music should be written, so that no-one, no matter how philistine, can ruin it.
    • A creative artist works on his next composition because he is not satisfied with his previous one. When he loses a critical attitude toward his own work, he ceases to be an artist.
    • I don't think that either self-deprecation or self-aggrandizement is among the defining qualities of an artist:Beethoven could have been forgiven if his symphonies had gone to his head. Gretchaninoff could also be forgiven if his Dobrinya Nikititch went to his head. But neither one could be forgiven for writing a piece that was amoral, servile, the work of a flunky.
    • Music is a means capable of expressing dark dramatism and pure rapture, suffering and ecstasy, fiery and cold fury, melancholy and wild merriment - and the subtlest nuances and interplay of these feelings which words are powerless to express and which are unattainable in painting and sculpture.
    • Real music is always revolutionary, for it cements the ranks of the people; it arouses them and leads them onward.
    • The real geniuses know where their writing has to be good and where they can get away with some mediocrity.
    • You ask if I would have been different without 'Party guidance'? Yes, almost certainly. No doubt the line I was pursuing when I wrote the Fourth Symphony would have been stronger and sharper in my work. I would have displayed more brilliance, used more sarcasm, I could have revealed my ideas openly instead of having to resort to camouflage.
    • What do you think of Puccini? [ Britten: 'I think his operas are dreadful.' ] No, Ben, you are wrong. He wrote marvellous operas, but dreadful music.
    • It's about the people, who have stopped believing because the cup of evil has run over.
    • People knew about Babi Yar before Yevtushenko's poem, but they were silent. And when they read the poem, the silence was broken. Art destroys silence.
    • I feel eternal pain for those who were killed by Hitler, but I feel no less pain for those killed on Stalin's orders. I suffer for everyone who was tortured, shot, or starved to death.
    • The majority of my symphonies are tombstones.
    • Jewish folk music has made a most powerful impression on me. I never tire of delighting in it, it's multifaceted, it can appear to be happy while it is tragic. It is almost always laughter through tears. This quality of Jewish folk music is close to my idea of what music should be. There should always be two layers in music. Jews were tormented for so long that they learned to hide their despair. They express despair in dance music.
    • I think it is clear to everyone what happens in the Fifth. The rejoicing is forced, created under threat, as in Boris Godunov. It's as if someone were beating you with a stick and saying, 'Your business is rejoicing, your business is rejoicing,' and you rise, shaky, and go marching off, muttering, 'Our business is rejoicing, our business is rejoicing.'
    • 'I always try to make myself as widely understood as possible; and if I don't succeed, I consider it my own fault.'
    • ' Rimsky-Korsakov used to say that he refused to acknowledge any complaints from composers about their hard lot in life. He explained his position thus: Talk to a bookkeeper and he'll start complaining about life and his work. Work has ruined him, it's so dull and boring. You see, the bookkeeper had planned to be a writer but life made him a bookkeeper. Rimsky-Korsakov said that it was rather different with composers. None of them can say that he had planned to be a bookkeeper and that life forced him to become a composer.'
    • 'For some reason, people think that music must tell us only about the pinnacles of the human spirit, or at least about highly romantic villains. But there are very few heroes or villains. Most people are average, neither black nor white. They're grey. A dirty shade of grey.'
    • 'When a man is in despair, it means that he still believes in something.'
    • 'I write music, it's performed. After all, my music says it all. It doesn't need historical and hysterical commentaries. In the long run, any words about music are less important than the music.'
    • 'What you have in your head, put it down on paper. The head is a fragile vessel.'
    • 'Every composer should be able to play his own compositions at the piano.'
    • 'I shall never forget that event - a boy was brutally killed by a Cossack with his sabre.'
    • 'Beethoven was a revolutionary. If you read his letters, you will realize how much he wished to arouse the public by his new musical ideas.'
    • 'Football is the ballet of the masses.'
    • Here is music turned deliberately inside out in order that nothing will be reminiscent of classical opera, or have anything in common with symphonic music or with simple and popular musical language accessible to all...Here we have 'leftist' confusion instead of natural human music. The power of good music to infect the masses has been sacrificed to a petty-bourgeois, 'formalist' attempt to create originality through cheap clowning. It is a game of clever ingenuity that may end very badly.
    • Pornophony.
    • Not since the time of Berlioz has a symphonic composer created such a stir. In far-away America, great conductors vie with each other for the jus primae noctis of his music. The score of his Seventh Symphony, the symphony of struggle and victory, has been reduced to a roll of microfilm and flown half-way across the speed the day of the American premiere. How the old romantics would have loved to be the center of such a fantastic adventure!
    • He did not write about this war and that revolution, but about war and revolution in general, the state of mind and emotion, not facts.
    • Many consider that Shostakovich is the greatest 20th-century composer. In his 15 symphonies, 15 quartets, and in other works he demonstrated mastery of the largest and most challenging forms with music of great emotional power and technical invention:All his works are marked by emotional extremes - tragic intensity, grotesque and bizarre wit, humour, parody, and savage sarcasm.
    • He is thinner, taller, younger - more boyish-looking - than expected, but he is also the shyest and most nervous human being I have ever seen. He chews not merely his nails but his fingers, twitches his pouty mouth and chin, chain-smokes, wiggles his nose in constant adjustment of his spectacles, looks querulous one moment and ready to cry the next. His hands tremble, he stutters, his whole frame wobbles when he shakes hands:There is no betrayal of the thoughts behind those frightened, very intelligent eyes.
    • dmitri shostakovich

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