A polystylist , Shostakovich developed a hybrid voice, combining a variety of different musical techniques into his works. His music is characterized by sharp contrasts, elements of the grotesque , and ambivalent tonality ; the composer was also heavily influenced by the neo-classical style pioneered by Igor Stravinsky , and (especially in his symphonies) by the late Romanticism associated with Gustav Mahler .
Arguably it’s this Mahlerian juxtaposition of opposites that lies at the very heart of Shostakovich’s world. Everything about the composer seems to be cloaked in ambiguity. Duality is of the essence. It’s already there in the First Symphony (1925), regarded by many as the most assured symphony ever written by a 19 year-old. Indeed, the astonishing maturity of this work immediately brought Shostakovich into the spotlight. He was touted abroad as the Soviet Union’s most promising composing talent and his work was taken up by such eminent conductors as Bruno Walter and Arturo Toscanini.
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