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Dmitri Shostakovich's Festive Overture

Classical Academy | Composers



Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich is one of the most celebrated composers of the 20th century. His music bears the hallmark of Russian influences due in part to his great admiration for fellow countrymen Prokofiev and above all Modest Mussorgsky; yet, his love of music from Bach’s fugues to Mahler’s symphonies lends a unique ‘hybrid’ flavour to his works. Writing broadly tonal and Romantic pieces, he liberally scatters them with sharp contrasts, chromatics and his beloved ‘tone rows’ (using all twelve notes of the scale in a non-repetitive order).
Tasked in 1954 with writing a piece for the anniversary of the October Revolution by the Moscow Bolshoi Theatre’s conductor - and with the concert right around the corner - Shostakovich completed his Festive Overture in a mere three days. In the typical Shostakovich idiosyncratic style, the piece is nonetheless surprisingly classical in structure, suggesting to some that he secretly wrote it in celebration of Stalin’s death the year before. Listen to the remarkable lively work with its brilliant brass fanfare on this superb recording.
The piece went on to be used as the theme music for the 1980 Summer Olympics. For more music based around this spectacular sporting event, try our feature on the Olympic Games.