Life Chronicles

In 1945, on his daughter’s ninth birthday, Shostakovich composed a piano piece called “Birthday”. Peter Williams drew Galina’s portrait right on the sheet music in coloured pencil.

Composition of the piano cycle “A Child’s Exercise Book” (ор.69).
November 3rd - Premiere of Symphony No. 9 (ор.70).

January 2, 1945, Moscow

“We did celebrate New Year. We celebrated it in our flat . We could not refuse, because everyone was clubbing together. It was ‘jolly’ and noisy. The toughest time was after three in the morning. Guests who lived far away (strangers who were of no interest to me) were waiting for the first tram. They left at six in the morning. My dream is that in 1945 we might hoist our victory banner in Berlin. My plans for 1945 are not clear.

(continuation of the letter)
I am not composing anything, because I am living in very wretched conditions. From six in the morning till 6 at night I am deprived of two basic commodities - light and water. These shortages are particularly difficult to cope with between 3 and 6 p.m. It is dark. Paraffin lamps are not much help. My eyesight is bad. I can’t work by the light of paraffin lamp. My nerves are worn down by this lack of light...
My car is still out of action. I have no petrol. I have no driver and, probably, no money to pay for one anyway...”

Galina Shostakovich,
the composer’s daughter:

“Naturally a composer’s daughter has to have music lessons, but mine were not very successful. As my skills improved, my father kept composing more and more difficult pieces: whenever I managed to play one properly, then there would be a new one the next day. I sat down to play these pieces before an audience in the House of Composers: I managed to get through one, the second I did not complete, because I forgot how it went, and I burst into tears. My father came up to me, finished the second piece and said: ’Never mind, she is still very small’. Some time later I was allowed to stop lessons. Of course, it was a shame, but something just didn’t work out. It happens... I became a biologist.”

August 1945
Daniil Zhitomirsky:

“...I was in constant touch with Shostakovich. August was particularly fine and perfect for summer leisure. Yet Shostakovich hardly ever succumbed. He clearly dislikes any kind of passive contemplation, in general, any kind of empty, ‘neutral’ time-wasting. This means that he doesn’t like leisurely walks and cloud-gazing, but casual random conversation still less so. Involvement in some active process is the only possible form of existence for him. <...> In conversation he is laconic in the extreme: his remarks are brisk, pithy and often with an ironic undertone. He always seem to be hurrying to ‘get down to business’. Sometimes he would agree to play four hands.”