The Years at the Conservatoire.
May 8, 1920: Shostakovich performs his Preludes (op. 2) at the Exhibition of Kustodiev’s paintings in the House of the Arts.
Autumn 1920: Move to L. Nikolayeva’s piano class.
1921: First Review about Shostakovich in the pressb in the journal “Zhizn iskusstva”.
First Review about Shostakovich:
“The concert given by D.Shostakovich, the young composer and pianist, made a tremendous impression on us. He played Bach (Prelude and Fugue in A flat for organ arranged by Liszt) and Beethoven’s ‘Appassionata’. These were followed by his own works. His performance stood out on account of his confidence and artistic concern for simplicity, which made it clear that this was a musician with a profound and sensitive understanding of his art.”
(from the journal “Zhizn iskusstva, 1921).
Conversation between A. Glazunov and M. Gorky:
“We need another food ration. The claimant is very young. Born in 1906.”
“A violinist, they mature early, or a pianist?”
“How old is he?”
“He’s 14. The son of a music teacher. He has brought me his compositions.”
“Did you like them?”
“Revolting! This was the first music, I was unable to hear, when reading the score.”
“Why did you come then?”
“I didn’t like it, but that’s not the point. Time will be on his side. I don’t like his
music. It’s a great pity. This is going to be the music of the future.”
“ His name?”
(V. Shklovsky. “Once upon a time...”, “Sovietskii pisatel”, Moscow, 1966, p.164).
“I saw Dmitrii Shostakovich for the first time in our house... on November 11, 1920.
<...> First we just sat, ill at ease with each other. Later we began to play with the model railway. Mitya was soon bored with it. He went over to the piano and began to play the open page of ‘Tannhauser’
<...> He appeared just as he always would do later: slightly aloof, absent-minded, with dishevelled hair and wearing glasses that hid his eyes.”
(Rozanov. “Memories of D.Shostakovich”).
“In the autumn we celebrated Mitya’s birthday.<...>
Glazunov was sitting with us at the birthday table. His massive imposing bulk and his measured, good-natured way of talking lent the occasion a spirit of boundless warmth and spontaneity.
Then he asked for silence: chewing his lips as if weighing every word, he turned quietly to the guests:
“ I assume that today we have gathered today (pause) to honour and wish good health to the young composer (pause)... young composer (pause)... (someone tried to whisper the word ‘Scherzo’ to him).
“But Glazunov, looking over towards Mitya with fatherly affection, slowly went on: “To honour and wish good health to the young composer of future symphonies.”
With these words he took Mitya’s hand and shook it hard and enthusiastically.
I again had the feeling that he would have liked to give him a hug.
(E. Trusova, “Pages of Reminiscences” “Sovietskaya muzyka, 1976, No.9, p.107).
August 16, 1921
“I shall allow myself to ask for your attention and to beg you to issue a food ration for an undoubtedly outstanding and talented boy ... a pianist and composer, Dmitrii Shostakovich, aged 14. This boy has shown extraordinary musical talent since the age of nine... He has a phenomenal musical memory, perfect pitch, enormously wide knowledge of piano music and he has already produced compositions which he has played in front of a large audience. <...> He is working hard to move on and is making rapid progress. Yet the hard times we are going through and almost constant hunger are undermining the health of all our children and in particular of such a hard-working, impressionable boy as Mitya. Lack of food (he virtually never gets any milk, eggs, meat, sugar and hardly ever any butter)has made this dear boy very thin and pale. He’s getting very nervous and, most terrible of all, he’s suffering from severe anaemia. The draining Petersburg autumn is starting and he hasn’t got stout shoes, galoshes or warm clothes. We fear for his future. Despite all their love for him, his parents and his relatives are unable to give him what is essential to keep going and to develop his talent. He is getting student rations, the so-called ‘talent ration’, but recently it has got so small that it can’t save anyone from hunger and is measured out in tiny portions (for example, two spoonfuls of sugar and half a pound of pork for a fortnight).
<...> Once more I earnestly beg you to turn your attention to this boy of outstanding talent. He cannot flourish without the crucial support ... food.”
(From a letter by K. Lukashevich to A. Lunacharsky)