First Childhood Compositions of Shostakovich: “The Soldier”, “Hymn to Freedom”, “Fineral March”.
Autumn 1915: enrolment on I.Glasser’s piano course.
Spring 1918: start of lessons with A. Rozanova.
“My ability to compose came to light very early,
at the same time as my piano lessons began...”
(From “Autobiography”, written on June 16, 1926)
“ I do not think it is of great interest to know which Gymnasium I went to, or what my marks were for Handwriting. <...>
I began trying to compose at the same time as embarking on the piano. The first composition which I can still remember was some kind of long piece called “The Soldier”. What inspired that was the war of 1914. At that time I was composing in response to nothing apart from external events and things around me ... like the War, marching soldiers, the noises of the street, woods, water, fire.
When I was very small I saw a forest fire. This was what led me to write some sort of ‘fiery sonata’ for the piano.
At the same time I was reading a lot of Gogol. I even tried to compose an opera ‘Taras Bulba’, but nothing came of it.
During the February Revolution when I was coming home from school I got caught up in a crowd and walked along with it for a long time. There were shots being fired and shouting. All this I tried to portray in a ‘revolutionary symphony’.
At the same time I composed a ‘funeral march’ in memory of the victims of the revolution.
I first encountered the October Revolution on the streets as well, and what’s more I saw a small boy being shot before my eyes (according to the newspapers, he was shot by a former gendarme). The tragic episode imprinted itself on my memory and when I was composing the symphony ‘Dedication to October’, I recalled that incident very clearly and I devoted an episode to it before the chorus comes in.
I could have told you far more about that period of my life and in much more detail, but not long ago I burned an enormous pile of papers, because they were taking up too much space.
The titles of the compositions from that time (as far as I can remember) were: ‘In the Forest’, ‘The Noise of the Train’, ‘The Tempest’ , ‘Thunderstorm’ and so on. This shows how only outward stimuli inspired my writing.”
(From a letter to L. Shulgin).
“I am planning to write music to Lermontov’s poem ‘The Song of Tsar Ivan Vasilievich, the merchant Kalashnikov and the soldier Kiribeyevich’. At the moment I am writing music to Gogol’s ‘Terrible Vengeance’ <...> Today I had a Botany exam, on Friday there will be Arithmetic, on Sunday Music and on Tuesday Geography. For the Music exam I shall be playing Bach’s Preludes Nos. 6 and 21 and Fugues Nos. 6, 10 and 21, Beethoven’s Sonata No.5 and Chopin’s Waltz No.6. Holidays start on Wednesday, April 11th. I have composed ‘Spinning Wheel’ and ‘Funeral March’... a symphony and that’s all for the moment.”
(From a letter to S. Ilyashov).