Page 3 Profile: Dmitri Shostakovich, Russian composer and pianist


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The Independent Online

Has a secret Shostakovich work been uncovered?

It would be a fine thing, but sadly that’s not the case. Bizarrely, the Russian composer – who died in 1975 – could win an Ivor Novello gong for which he will battle indie band Alt-J for Best Contemporary Song.

But how?

The fourth movement of his Seventh Symphony was incorporated into Plan B’s song “Ill Manors” last year. The well-received hit reached number six in the singles charts and helped its parent album debut in the number one slot. The rapper (whose real name is Ben Drew) used its “marching” string motif as the propulsive backing for his scathing attack on the Coalition and the demonisation of disaffected urban youth which he believes provoked the 2011 riots.

And what was its original purpose?

Drew wasn’t too far off, actually. The Russian’s stirring composition, premiered in 1942 and dedicated to the citizens of Leningrad, was adopted as a symbol of his countrymen’s heroic struggle against a relentless Nazi bombardment during the Second World War. But despite receiving a number of honours from the Soviet government, including the Lenin prize and the Order of the October Revolution, he had a turbulent relationship with the Kremlin. His compositions were denounced as “formalist” by Soviet officials in the late 1930s and his Eighth Symphony was unofficially banned. His reputation in Russia was only rehabilitated when he joined the Communist Party in 1960.

Could he genuinely win the Novello?

He certainly could: Shostakovich was credited by the Novellos as co-songwriter of the hit, alongside Drew and four other collaborators. “Ill Manors” competes against Fitzpleasure by Alt-J and Pelican by The Maccabees. His fans will find out whether he wins on 16 May.