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A Birthday Gift

A Birthday Gift

Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975), the Russian composer known for his many symphonies, chamber works, and concerti studied piano and composition at a young age. He achieved more success as a composer, and therefore his public piano performances were often of his own pieces. 

Shostakovich composed the Piano Concerto No. 2 in F Major for his son, Maxim, as a 19th birthday present. Keeping the technical difficulty of the piece in mind, he wanted it to be playable for young pianists. As a music student, Maxim premiered the piece at the Moscow Conservatory during his graduation concert.

Despite the heartfelt gift he composed for his son, Shostakovich wrote to Edison Denisov (one of Shostakovich’s composition students and a future major figure in Soviet music) just a few days after he finished drafting the piece believing it had “no artistic value.” However, he may not have meant this comment to be taken seriously during a time when a fine line between censorship and artistic expression existed.

This “simple” concerto has always been admired by audiences worldwide and is one of Shostakovich’s most popular pieces. In fact, the composer performed it many times himself.