Life Chronicles

On 25 March 1960, an evening of American and Soviet contemporary music was held in the Grand Hall of the Conservatory in Moscow. The concert programme of the USSR State Symphony Orchestra included a symphony by Aaron Copland, a piano concerto by Lukas Foss, and Shostakovich’s Ninth Symphony. After performance of the Ninth Symphony, Copland awarded Shostakovich with the diploma of an honourable member of the US National Institute of Arts and Literature.
From 4 to 7 April 1960, the First Founding Congress of the RSFSR Union of Composers was held in Moscow. Shostakovich was elected the first secretary of the board of directors. At the end of April 1961, he participated in the Fourth Plenum of the board of directors of the Siberian Composers Organization of the RSFSR Union of  Composers. While in Novosibirsk, he visited the grave of I.I. Sollertinsky.

May 15th - Premiere of String Quartet No. 7 (ор.108).
October 2nd - Premiere of String Quartet No. 8 (ор.110).
November 25th - Production of Mussorgsky’s ‘Khovanshchina’ edited and orchestrated by Shostakovich (ор.106).
Concert tour in England, France, Italy, Switzerland and Austria.
Film - “Five Days - Five Nights” (ор.111).
Enrolment as a candidate for membership of the CPSU.

July 19, 1960, Zhukovka

“...I have written an ideologically flawed quartet which is of no use to anyone. I have been thinking that if I ever die, it is highly unlikely that anyone will write a work dedicated to my memory...So I’ve decided to write such myself.
The main theme of the quartet consists of the musical notes D S C H, i.e. my initials.
When I came home I tried to play it and again started weeping. Not just because of its pseudo-tragic quality but also because of my astonishment at its beautiful integrity of form. My self-admiration will pass, though, and then, perhaps, sobering self-criticism will ensue...”

February 6, 1960

“Never allow yourself to be worried about receiving high honours. Don’t aspire to them.
Of course it is pleasant to receive awards. I know from experience. We have to work not for awards but for the people, in the name of our love for the people, in the name of our boundless devotion to the people...If you abide strictly by this rule, then you will feel light at heart and you will not be worrying ‘Will they or won’t they?’ Then you would not write stereotyped ballet adagios...
P.S. Probably while you were reading this, you thought to yourself: he’s a fine one to talk. He wrote an operetta himself...We have all, at some time or other, committed sins before the Lord and socialist realism. Yet this does not entitle us to ignore each other’s shortcomings, and I stress each other’s. The shortcomings of Tumanov, Novikov or Koval don’t worry me. I don’t pay attention to them. Your shortcomings though make me sad. They are like a knife piercing my heart...”

Zinaida Gayamova,
the composer’s secretary:

“April 7th.
...there was a call from the Central Committee...Shostakovich was summoned. <...> I realized that he was being summoned by them to make him Chairman or Secretary of the Union. I had heard earlier in the morning that the suggestion had come from N. Khrushchev. I had been told that during receptions held in the Kremlin, Khrushchev when drinking toasts to composers, only named one name - Shostakovich - and used to refer to him as the first composer in the most radiant and complimentary tone.
After thinking about all this, I started to feel worried. I felt offended by the thought that Shostakovich was being offered this post. Would he really have to work under Khrennikov? Why should he have to waste time and undermine his health on all that? He was an honest, principled man who took all his duties seriously. He would have no time left for writing. I plucked up my courage and telephoned him, urging him not to agree, saying he would not have enough time for his own work. I could sense that he was hesitating...”

July 19, 1960, Zhukovka

“I was staying the resort of Gorlitz ...40 kilometres from Dresden. An incredibly beautiful spot. It’s clearly meant to be though, with a name like ‘Saxon Switzerland’. The working conditions have borne fruit: I have composed my Eighth Quartet here. However hard I’ve been trying to complete in rough my tasks with regard to the film, I have not managed it so far. Instead of that I have written an ideologically flawed quartet which is of no use to anyone. I have been thinking that if I ever die, it is highly unlikely that anyone will write a work dedicated to my memory...So I have decided to write such myself...That’s just what one might write on the cover: ‘Dedication to the memory of the author of this Quartet’. The main theme of the quartet consists of the notes D S C H, i.e. my initials. In the quartet I have used themes from other works of mine and the revolutionary song: ‘Tormented by grim oppression...’ My themes are the following ones: from the First Symphony, from the Eighth Symphony, from the Trio, from the Cello Concerto and from ‘Lady Macbeth’. There are also echoes of Wagner (the Funeral March from the ‘Twilight of the Gods’) and Tchaikovsky (the second theme from the first part of the Sixth Symphony). Yes, and I forgot my Tenth Symphony as well. What a cocktail! The pseudo-tragedy of this quartet was such that I, when composing it, shed as much liquid in tears, as one would shed in urine after half a dozen beers. On my return home I tried to play it twice and again started weeping. Not just because of its pseudo-tragic quality, but also because of my astonishment at its beautiful integrity of form. My self-admiration will pass, though, and then, perhaps, sobering self-criticism will ensue.
Now I have handed in the Quartet to be copied and I hope to start learning it with the same Beethoven Quartet.”

Leo Arnshtam:

“In the summer of 1960 I worked on the film “Five Days - Five Nights”. Shooting went on mainly in Dresden and its environs...
The composer for this film was, of course, Dmitrii Shostakovich <...>
I gave him the approximate duration of all the pieces. Our German friends arranged for him to be given a quiet place in Saxon Switzerland, where he would be able to work.
We telephoned each other for two weeks. I would specify details, saying that in this particular piece the emphasis should be such-and-such. In a word, normal professional discussions. I thought that he would come back, if not with the completed music (he always used to write very quickly), then at least with a completed draught version.
Two weeks passed. He arrived. For the first time in my life I saw him really embarrassed. He said: ‘The fact of the matter is that I haven’t written anything at all for you, I was lying all the time. I was actually writing a quartet. I couldn’t stop writing it. Please try and understand me. I shall play it for you now.
For God’s sake, don’t worry. Your music will get written, everything will be in time, everything will be all right.’ ”

October 31, 1960

“Dear Zinaida!
When you receive the money, please do the following: 1) take 500 roubles for yourself and 100 roubles for expenses. If you need more, take more.
2) send 1000 roubles to my sister Maria Chernyshova; 3) give Galya the rest of the money with advice to spend it carefully.”
(From a letter to Z. Gayamova).
Zinaida Gayamova, the composer’s secretary:
“At the table Shostakovich turned to Maxim and Galya and said:’ I am advising you not under any circumstances to go round demanding for my works to be performed and published, after I die. Otherwise I shall torment you from my grave.”

May 23, 1960

“D. Shostakovich has been elected First Secretary of the Composers’ Union of the RSFSR.
D. Shostakovich born in 1906, Russian, non-party member. He graduated from the Leningrad Conservatoire in 1925. Since 1957 he has been Secretary of the Union of Composers of the USSR. The outstanding and most authoritative composer of our times. People’s Artist of the USSR. Holder of Lenin and Stalin Prizes and a Sibelius Prize. Awarded the International Peace Prize. Member of the musical academies of Sweden, Italy and the GDR; member of the American Academy of Sciences, Honorary Doctor of Oxford University, Composer of the Order of French Art, Professor of the Mexican Conservatoire. Holder of two Orders of Lenin and the Order of the Red Labour Banner.”

student of the composer:

“...Shostakovich was persuaded to accept this post. He could not refuse. Accuracy and reliability were the traits characteristic of his work as a public figure. He turned up every day, sat there receiving people and doing everything which was required of him. He spent untold hours doing this. He never complained that this hindered him in his work. His principle was: I’ve taken this on, so I’ll do it. Not for himself, for others. He used to open new departments for composers. He would travel to Bashkiria and Tataria, he was inundated with requests and he tried to help everyone. He made endless calls to Leningrad and always with the same request: ’Help, help. Someone has nowhere to live. Someone’s been turned down for work. <...>
On several occasions I was present at meetings of the Secretariat of the Russian composers’ organization chaired by Shostakovich. They were straight to the point, democratic and business-like.”