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Dmitri Shostakovich, born and raised in St. Petersburg, studied at its fabled Conservatory in the aftermath of World War I and the Russian Revolutions of 1917. His teachers there included Leonid Nikolayev (piano) and Maximilian Steinberg (composition). With the premiere of his graduation piece, the
, in 1926, Shostakovich's exceptional career was launched. He quickly established himself at the forefront of young Soviet composers.
Shostakovich was fortunate in attracting some of the most gifted performers of the era — Yevgeny Mravinsky, David Oistrakh, and Mstislav Rostropovich among them — as ardent champions of his music. In his last years, he turned increasingly from large-scale "public" works to music of confessional intimacy, concentrating on the genre of string quartet and vocal music.
A highly politicized figure during his lifetime and since — because of a high-profile career carved out in the conditions of Communist dictatorship coupled with the immense emotive power of his music — by the time of his widely-celebrated centennial in 2006 Shostakovich was hailed by common consensus as one of the greatest twentieth-century composers. A substantial body of his large and varied musical output has established itself firmly in the standard repertory.