Lessons from Music History

Lesson 9 - Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975)

and his friend Mstislav Rostropovich (1927-2007)

~Served with silence ~

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True Friendship
"Friends come and friends go, but a true friend sticks by you like family."
~Proverbs 18:24 The Message

Living under the communist regime in Russia made life very difficult for composer Dmitri Shostakovich.  Although his early works brought him the title “Composer-laureate of the Soviet State”, this official favor did not last. His innovative music began to irritate the communist officials, and he was branded an “enemy of the people”.

Stalin himself wrote an article denouncing Shostakovich, which he entitled “Muddle Instead of Music”. When he tried to organize a performance, the newspapers announced, “Today there will be a concert by the enemy of the people Shostakovich”. Rocks were often thrown through the windows of his home.

Through the tense years of Soviet persecution, the support of his friends meant very much to this man. One in particular, the great cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, had a keen understanding of his friend’s pain. Shostakovich would frequently telephone him with the words, “Come quickly, hurry”.

Their apartments were many miles apart, yet Rostropovich never failed to come. At the door, the composer always greeted him, “Sit down, and now we can be silent”. Rostropovich remembered, “I would sit for half an hour, without a word. It was most relaxing, just sitting. Then Shostakovich would get up and say, ‘Thank you. Goodbye, Slava’. It was very special, sitting like that with him.”

   from "Devotions from the World of Music" by Patrick & Barbara Kavanaugh (Cook Communications Ministries, 2000)