Brian Morton

‘A model biographical sketch’
The Guardian


The most popular Soviet composer of his generation and the last great classical symphonist, Dmitri Shostakovich was at first highly praised by Stalin, but his career quickly became mired in contradiction and anger.

Subjected to a brutalising and unpredictable relationship with Stalin and his successors, Shostakovich found his life and career hanging in the balance as he navigated the pressures of increasing public popularity, artistic integrity, and the stylistic obligations of the Soviet regime.

Brian Morton exposes the composer’s true qualities, delineating the coded meanings of his work and stripping back context, speculation, and obfuscation to celebrate his inherent musical genius. Alongside this musical analysis, Morton tells the extraordinary story of how this meticulous, courageous, and prolific composer survived the constant threats of public life under Russian Communism.

BRIAN MORTON has been an academic, newspaper journalist, and broadcaster. He was features editor, and then literary editor, of The Times Higher Education Supplement, and he remains a regular press contributor. He was a presenter on BBC Radio 3, BBC Radio 4 and BBC Scotland, and has written numerous musical and historical books, including as co-author of The Penguin Guide to Jazz. He lives with his family in a former monastery in the west of Scotland.

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