Works Film Music

“King Lear”. Music to the Film

Opus 136 Opus 138

Opus 137
1970 year

“Sofya Perovskaya”. Op. 132. “King Lear”. Op. 137


“Lenfilm” studios. Scriptwriter and director: G. Kozintsev. In Boris Pasternak's Russion translation. Film score performed by the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Dzhemal-Eddin Lalgat and Nikolai Rabinovich.

first publication:

1987. D. Shostakovich, Collected Works, Vol. 42, Moscow.


In the archive of the composer’s family.

“King Lear”. Music for the film (Two Parts). Screen version of the tragedy by W. Shakespeare of the same name. 1970
Released on February 4, 1971
Scriptwriter and director: G. Kozintsev. “Lenfilm” studios, 1970

King Lear
Music to the Film

     The film King Lear, which crowned the creative journey of film director Grigory Kozintsev, was also Dmitri Shostakovich’s last work in his long cinematographic career.
     Created at the peak of his compositional experience and freedom from any external and internal restrictions, Shostakovich’s film score for King Lear took up its rightful place among his works of ‘pure’ music and stood alongside the prominent compositions of his late years, primarily the last quartets and the Fourteenth Symphony.
     Kozintsev began working on the script for the film King Lear in the autumn of 1965. In the spring and summer of 1968, he wrote the director’s script. Filming began on 14 January 1969.
     At the peak of the preparatory work, on 22 May 1968, Kozintsev, who could not imagine using a different composer for his new film, invited Shostakovich to participate. Shostakovich replied as soon as he received the letter from Leningrad: ‘It will be my great pleasure to work on King Lear. I hope that I will be up to it. Time marches on and I am getting no younger.’
     Writing the music for King Lear proved to be an arduous process—Shostakovich bowed out twice, first in November-December 1969, when he was in a hospital in Moscow for six weeks, then from the end of February to June 1970, when he was undergoing treatment in Kurgan. Work on King Lear was completed in early August 1970.
     The film King Lear was released in January 1971. It successfully paraded across the country’s cinemas and aroused a multitude of responses in the press. There was not one review that did not note the immense significance of Shostakovich’s innovative music. In an interview with Izvestia, the composer himself described his new work as follows: ‘It was a long and laborious effort. I talked on the phone for hours on end with Kozintsev and received all the material from him by mail.’
     Soon the film was released abroad, where it too enjoyed recognition.
     In the decades following the publication of the score in Shostakovich’s Collected Works, conductors began showing an interest in the film’s music and several recordings appeared. In 2002, Claudio Abbado performed in Berlin a composition after King Lear: a version of Kozintsev’s film reduced to 70 minutes accompanied by music from Shostakovich’s two Lears, the theatre production of 1941 (with the Fool’s songs and Cordelia’s ballad) and the film. Later this composition was performed in Ferrara (2003), in Rome at the National Academy of St.Cecilia and in Bologna (2011). A copy of its full score is kept in Dmitri Shostakovich’s archive.


  • Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra, Berlin Radio and Television Choir. Conductor: M. Yurovsky // CAPRICCIO 10 397, 1992