Life Chronicles

On 13 May 1932, Shostakovich married Nina Vassilyevna Varzar. 
On 17 December, he finished composing the opera Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District and dedicated it to his wife.

Marriage to Nina Varzar.
May 19th - Premiere of Shakespeare’s tragedy “Hamlet” (oр.32).
November 7th - Premiere of the film “The Counterplan” (oр.33).
December 17th - Completion of the opera “Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District” (oр.29).
Completion of the work “Six Romances on Japanese Poems” (oр.21).

May 26, 1932, Leningrad

“I have no news whatsoever. I am engaged in relishing my modest happiness body and soul.”

August 24, 1932

“I came out best. I look cultured and my face is full of intellectual aspirations...”

November 1, 1932, Leningrad

“I, like Burdyukov in the story ‘Order of Vladimir 3rd Class’, am plagued by a dream about a medal and worried silly. <...> I’m so worn out by a dream of of a tolerable existence, that I can’t believe in it any more...”

March 29, 1932

“Mikhail Fabianovich!
Don’t be angry at me for what I said. I did not like the symphony at all. I somehow lost my bearings and perhaps expressed myself inappropriately, which led to such violent objections. I should be most distressed, if I thought that you were really angry with me.”

April 10, 1932

“Life is wretched. I can’t compose. Because of that, my mood is miserable. Yesterday played poker. Lost forty roubles. Nothing else has been happening.”

April 28, 1932

“In general, life is beautiful!”

May 26, 1932, Leningrad

“I have no news whatsoever. I am engaged in relishing my modest happiness body and soul. Nina is the seventh (or eighth) wonder of the world. Words cannot describe her. For the time being. I’m happy and from the heights of this happiness I turn a blind eye to the snags of everyday life. I want to compose, but I’m working on an operetta ‘A Nail in Powder’ (1C!) to words by N. Aseyev. I want to immerse myself in my ‘Lady’ but the ‘Nail’ gets in the way...”

June 25, 1932, Leningrad

“I’m alive but not well. My problem is rather prosaic: teeth. All last week I was suffering terribly from toothache. Not long ago one tooth was extracted. I shan’t waste words to describe how my toothache progressed in detail. This is my first misfortune. The second is lack of money. For the last two weeks I’ve been living on credit. I’m right out of money. Because of this too I get desperate and languish. Sometimes there’s not even enough to buy a drink and a bite to eat with it. I’ve forgotten how to play poker...
Yet life has its own law of dialectics. Not everything is bad. Bukhshtein, whom I don’t like very much, has got sick. Perhaps he’ll die. This news fills me with quiet joy and softens my soul that was hardened by misery...
I learnt to my delight that the theatre is going to be built. I am sure that ‘Lady Macbeth’ will sound marvellous there. So I’m going on composing... Nothing can tear me away from the ‘Lady’. So, I move slowly forward...”

August 24, 1932, Crimea, Gaspra

“I’m sending you a photo of us. This is what I can tell you about it. I came out best of all. I look cultured and my face is full of intellectual aspirations. Nina looks as is she has swallowed something ghastly. Yet the photo’s splendid all the same. Getting this photo was the brightest and the most outstanding event in our life. Otherwise everything is as usual. In Moscow you probably have lots of news.”

October 20, 1932, Leningrad

“I’m ailing. I have a bad cold and unbearable headaches. It’s probably as a result of exhaustion and my nerves which are in a poor state, because of too much work and being run down. I would ask you and the whole company from the theatre of the People’s Artist of the USSR - Nemirovich-Danchenko - to be 100% confident that the premiere of ‘Lady Macbeth’ will take place precisely in their theatre.
Even if I committed a few mistakes in my relations with the theatre, they’ll be smoothed out. I’m a push-over. It’s easy for people to twist me round their little finger, but sometimes I can turn into a real beast... I’ve turned into one now because of the way things are going with the ‘Lady’ in your theatre... that’s a fact. When I’m better, I will come to Moscow without fail. I shall bring the score. In exchange I shall get my manuscript back from you, which I need desperately. As far as you can, I beg you not to torture me too much, until I’ve finished Act IV. When I’m ready, you can harass me, maul me about and so on, as much as you like...
Once more I would ask everyone at the theatre to be sure that the premiere of ‘Lady Macbeth’ will be staged in your theatre first and only later in ‘other’ theatres.”

October 1932, Leningrad

“Yesterday yet another meeting of the board of the Leningrad Union of Composers took place. At the meeting it was decided to put me forward for a Banner of Labour medal from the Central Executive Committee of the USSR on the occasion of the Fifteenth Anniversary of the October Revolution. The grounds for doing so are as follows: I have worked honestly throughout my whole adult life alongside the Party and the working class and inspite of my difficult life in the past (severe material deprivation and so on). I did not lose my faith in the victory of the October Revolution. Moreover, I was filled with ever greater enthusiasm for the creation of Soviet musical culture. What is more my work, imbued with boundless devotion to the Party, the proletariat and Soviet power possesses enormous merit of a ‘philosophical-artistic’ character. In general, they said so many fine, things, that I almost burst into tears, being of an emotional nature. They even mentioned my appalling living conditions, but I ran away by then, shed a few tears at home and then began to think rationally: will I get it or won’t I? After weighing it all up soberly, I decided that I wouldn’t get the medal after all <...> Today the whole town is talking about the above-mentioned incident, and if I do not get any medal, there will be no end to the derision and mockery. I shall feel hurt and put out if I’m not awarded anything... I feel at a loss and don’t know what to do. I never expected that the question of awarding me a Banner of Labour medal would come up at all. Now that it has, though, it makes life wretched and miserable and I’m suffering...”

November 1, 1932

“This is how things are. Like Burdyukov in the story ‘Order of Vladimir 3rd Class’ I am plagued by a dream about a medal and worried silly.
The question of the flat is progressing. I shall be getting a four-room flat, 70 square metres: Dmitrovskii pereulok, House 3, Flat 5. I’m so worn out longing for a tolerable existence that I can’t believe in it any more...”

December 18, 1932

“Yesterday I completed Act IV. From today I feel rather empty inside. I don’t have to think about what I should be doing or writing and so on. From today I shall start composing the piano score for Act IV. In about six days I shall have it finished and then life really will seem empty. Then I shall have to get involved in the bickering and become actively involved in one of the many artistic committees, so as to fill up my time with something.
<...> I hope to hear from you very soon. About the piano score, about money, about the forthcoming orchestra rehearsals, enlarging the orchestra, my coming to Moscow and everything else.”

Maria Shostakovich:

“...since his marriage Dmitrii has become much calmer.<...>Yet domestic problems in conjunction with difficulties at work have drastically changed his character. From a gentle, well-balanced young man he has turned into a gloomy introvert, impatient and abrupt with his family. He hardly talks to his mother and sisters <...> He is polite and charming (with strangers) but he is also demanding and very stubborn. Dmitrii is always very closed in on himself and almost haughty. To develop a close relationship with him is very difficult because he is so reserved.”

Galina Shostakovich,
the composer’s daughter:

“Mother was a physicist by profession. I remember her as a person very happy in any situation.
We still have the camera and memories of her through photographs. She would seem to have understood very well, whom she was living with. She always made sure she had a camera with her and kept taking pictures. Although Father always felt embarrassed with press photographers, he didn’t mind what she did because it was in the family.
She died early, in 1954... It had been she of course, who had been bringing us up. Father was very soft-hearted. When we wanted to get something, we immediately turned to our father, rather than to Mother. She would always say what we could and couldn’t do and took a tough line with us, but a loving one. Our mother did not play the piano, but we were told that in her youth she sang well, but I have no memories of it.
All in all it was a very close family: there were always a lot of friends in the house and acquaintances who came to play cards. They used to play for money, that I remember. People would lose one day and win the next.”

Leo Arnshtam:

“Morning greets us with coolness.
The river greets us with a breeze...”
“The song from the film ‘The Counterplan’ has long since had a life of its own separate from the film and from those who created the song - the poet Boris Kornilov and the composer Dmitrii Shostakovich. The song lives on. People are still singing it today and have, of course, forgotten all about the film. <...>
Shostakovich and I used to live close to each other, a few streets away. That’s why Shostakovich used to bring me variations of this song. Strange as it was, it didn’t come out well to start with. In general he was a real sniper. He used to land on target straightaway: he would come up straightaway with what was needed for the film. In this case, the song didn’t hit the mark. Finally he brought along a song that was lucid and very simple, the one that people are still singing today. Unexpectedly for all of us, this song somehow made its way to America during the war. The musician and poet Harold Roy composed totally new, completely inappropriate, in my view, and extremely solemn words. Later it became the Hymn of the United Nations. For us, though, it had been a straightforward, simple song - as transparent as the air of our Leningrad white nights, at the time when we were shooting that film. Such was the fate of this song.”