Life Chronicles

May 24th - first performance of 24 Preludes for Piano (op. 34).Performed by the author.
October 15th - First Performance of Piano Concerto No.1 (op.35). Piano part played by the author.
Preparations for staging Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District (oр.29).

May 24th - first performance of 24 Preludes for Piano (op. 34). Performed by the author.
October 15th - First Performance of Piano Concerto No.1 (op.35). Piano part played by the author.
Preparations for staging “Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District” (oр.29).

“When a critic writes that in such and such a symphony Soviet office workers are represented by oboes and clarinets and soldiers of the Red Army by a group of brass instruments one wants to shout out: “That’s all wrong!”
A few words about myself. At the moment I am experiencing a wave of creative inspiration. I have finished the opera ‘Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District’ and I have written 24 Preludes for Piano. Now I am writing a piano concerto and a ‘Tale of the Priest and his worker Balda’ based on Pushkin (for a cartoon film).”

March 1, 1933, Leningrad

“I believe that creativity is a kind of lightning conductor for all sorts of life’s sorrows...”

March 1, 1933, Leningrad

“I have finished my Opus 34, that is 24 Preludes for Piano. I need to get down to my piano concerto. I believe that creativity is a kind of lightning conductor for all sorts of life’s sorrows, for example, headaches and others. There isn’t really anything else to write about.”

April 1, 1933, Leningrad

“I shall be coming to Moscow on April 5th. Then on April 7th I shall go from Moscow to Sverdlovsk. Perhaps you’ll be able to meet me. It would be very nice for me, especially because I shall be coming laden down with cases and friendly help, even if you only take my brief-case, would be very much appreciated. I can’t even dream of taking a taxi from the station, but...
P.S. From Sverdlovsk I’ll be returning to Moscow. I’ll be sending Nina off to the Crimea and will then stay on in Moscow for a few days.
Then I can really let rip and play some poker as a carefree bachelor!!!”

April 13, 1933, Sverdlovsk

“On the evening of the 10th I showed them ‘Lady Macbeth’. The local leaders received it very well. On another occasion I showed fragments to the members of the orchestra. It went down well with them as well. In passing, valuable comments of the following variety were put to me in the form of questions:
1) Tell us, maestro, if a man and a woman are lying in the same bed, don’t you feel that this is indecent?
2) In our heroic times, is it worthwhile to compose an opera where sexual intercourse is taking place all the time?
3) and other pearls of wisdom...
Pazovsky answered all these questions and his answers were clever ones. At the end I was assured that they would do their best to learn the opera well. Provincial life here and its total lack of culture are horrific. <...> There is so much the culture workers will have to do here <...> I was taken aback by the lack of culture among the local musicians...
I am dreaming ardently of getting on to the train tomorrow, knowing that in 50 hours I shall be in Moscow.”

June 29, 1933, Leningrad

“Today I arrived in Baku. I performed here. I am very unhappy with my trip, more than I can say. When I get the chance, I shall tell you about the coarseness and audacity in which I nearly drowned during my stay in Baku. I still haven’t got over it. The concert was a roaring success!
I am still under the spell of seeing ‘Lady Macbeth’ on stage. It’s nice that it went so well.”

August 6, 1933, Leningrad

“My wife is not well and we haven’t got a single kopeck. I’m borrowing money right and left. I’m in debt up to my ears. <...>
I have written a piano concerto.”

August 28, 1933, Crimea. Sanatorium in Koreiz

“I’m desolate at the thought that for a whole month I shall not be able to work on ‘Lady Macbeth’ and, secondly, it’s hot here. And thirdly I’m suffering from neurasthenia. My whole face (my friendly fine-looking face) is covered with terrible scabs. I can’t shave. My beard has grown out of control and horses shy away from me, when they see me. That’s how terrible I look.
When I return home, I’m almost certain that I shall lose all my friends. They will be disgusted to have anything to do with me, so not only horses, but people too will shy away from me. There is nothing else to write. I’ve made myself cry already.”

September 9, 1933, Gaspra

“The providential power of the sun’s rays have had their effect. Once more I am the owner of quite a clean face. There are many splendid people living here. I have learnt to play billiards quite well. On the way back I should like to stop off in Moscow, but I don’t have the money. I’m missing ‘Lady Macbeth’. It’s rather tedious here anyway. There’s nothing happening. Give my regards to Nemirovich-Danchenko, Mordvinov, Stolyarov and all my other friends and benefactors.”

September 16, 1933

“Not long ago I visited the Simeiz Observatory. I looked at the stars and understood how transitory our existence is, when confronted by the splendid sight of Saturn with its ring, Jupiter with its 9 moons and so on:
‘The abyss is revealed, filled with stars;
The stars are countless, the abyss bottomless.’
The sight made a big impression on me...”

October 20, 1933, Leningrad

“I decided to spend twelve days going to theatres with Nina. Yesterday the 12day plan brought us to ‘Othello’, tomorrow we’re going to ‘Aida’ and on the 23rd it will be ‘Sorochintsy Fair’. ‘Othello’ is an opera of absolute genius. I came home yesterday completely overwhelmed.”

Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko:

“So, comrades, the aim of our theatre is to unfold the music of Dmitrii Shostakovich, to unfold everything it contains - all this passion, his presentation of characters - in such a way on stage that the eye can see what the ear is hearing, the way he renders music human with the same emotional depth that colours the whole of this remarkable work. At the same time we need to remember that the most important aim of our theatre is to reject old-style operatic routine and the clich*s which used to litter our operas. We need to reveal all that is fresh and new and bright in Shostakovich’s brilliant piece. This is how we shall create New Opera and, perhaps, nurture a remarkable musician of genius for our theatre.”