Life Chronicles

From his youth until the end of the 1950s, Shostakovich actively performed his own compositions on the piano. In the 1950s, his repertoire included two piano concertos, Quintet and Trio No. 2, Sonata for Violoncello and Piano, the vocal cycle “From Jewish Folk Poetry”, Preludes and Fugues, Concertino for Two Pianos, and Preludes, Op. 34.

Completion of work on the cycle “24 Preludes and Fugues for piano” (op. 87). Performed by the author on November 18th.
Composition of “Ten Poems on texts by Revolutionary Poets of the late-19th and early-20th Century” (ор.88).
“Four songs to words by E. Dolmatovsky” (ор.86).
Re-election as a deputy to the Supreme Soviet of the RSFSR.

July 4, 1951 

“Having my tonsils out will, according to the doctors, free me from tonsillitis and colds and then life will be even better. The joke about tonsils doesn’t frighten me. The joke is as follows:
‘A: Have you heard that N. has had his tonsils out!
B: O, poor soul. He wanted to have children so badly’.
This operation frightens me because they say that for 3-4 days afterwards the sore throat is unbearable. The pain is enough to make your eyes pop out of your head. Sometimes people even lose consciousness. God help me to survive all that.
Don’t tell anyone about my pre-operation nerves. I don’t want Mamma to be worked up...”

November 22, 1951

“Last year was a very bad one for me as far as money was concerned. I hope that on February 7th things will get better and I shall be able to start paying back the money owe you...”

Galina Shostakovich,
daughter of the composer:

“Did your father talk to you about his creative plans?”
“He preferred not to talk about them. While a work was still unfinished he may have talked about it to certain musicians, but he would not say much. Once he had finished, then he would say:’ Today I finished such-and-such a work. Today I finished such-and-such a symphony.’
What I do know is that he did not like writing music for films. What forced him to do so was his financial position. He often used to say that for a symphony he got paid substantially less than for a film, and that for five symphonies as much as for one film. Later when Kozintsev and he started making films of Shakespeare’s plays, then he used to enjoy it. Otherwise, as far as I know he used to work in films only for the money.”
“What was the financial situation in your family?”
“Very different from what it is now. I even feel ashamed to talk about it, it’s not very pleasant. I remember how very often the only salary coming in was Mamma’s and a very modest one too. Even towards the end of his life, when one might have thought that everything was fine and my father had hard-currency accounts, he wanted to buy a car and he had to humiliate himself to ask to be allowed to take out a certain quality of dollars for the purchase. The answer he was given was:
‘Our Volga is just as good, go and buy one of those’. In general, he had to beg for every sum he wanted to draw out.”
“What was his attitude to money?”
“He used to say: ’Tomorrow is another day...’ Of course he used to get worried, he realized that the family was a large one and the household too. He tried to be cheerful about it, saying: ’Don’t worry, it’ll be all right’.”
“Who used to come to the house most often?”
“Many musicians used to visit him. We lived next door to the artist P. Vilyams and his family. We used to drink tea with them and have a good time. Vilyams made some very nice sketches, the paintings ‘Two Bathers’ and ‘Nana’ - they used to hang in our big room and Father liked them very much. He said once that he got attached to things:’ I’m attached to this table. It is worn out, but there’s no need to change it. I’m used to it. It is a good table, why change it? Let the lamp stay there, I don’t want another one.’ Sometimes he used to say:
‘I’m used to this. All this comes from Leningrad.’ ”
“In certain photographs Shostakovich looks rather smart. Did he enjoy good clothes?”
“No. He paid no attention to such things. Maybe when he was young - everybody wants to look smart then. He looked good in evening dress. He used to wear bow-ties. Back at home he never used to walk about in pyjamas or in a track-suit. He was always in a shirt and trousers when it was warm and wore a suit in winter. He had no casual clothes for wearing at home. I never remember seeing him in a dressing-gown, right up until the very end.
He was very surprised once: somebody moved into the dacha next door, it was hot and the neighbour was walking around in his underpants. Father said: ‘God help us, what is happening - there’s a man in nothing but underpants.’”