Dmitri Shostakovich(Russia, 1906-1975)Possibly the most gifted composer this century, Shostakovich composed everything from dark, massive symphonies that explore the depths of human cruelty and suffering, to throwaway film scores and light music. And he did it all with inspiration, wit and superb craftsmanship. The Soviet system knew they had a genius on their hands in the 1925, when he emerged as a boy wonder with his dazzling First Symphony, and they milked him for all he was worth. Shostakovich's instinct was to write daring, questioning yet accessible music for a daring, questioning, liberal society - exactly the opposite of what Stalin's brutal regime required. Stalin threatened Shostakovich with death in a newspaper editorial after his opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk. He survived by writing the Fifth Symphony, whose 'victorious' finale pleased the party officials but was recognised by the audience as an ironic reference to the 'celebration' of the regime they were forced to make. His spirit was further broken in 1948 by another artistic purge, and in 1960 he contemplated suicide. He made his Eighth Quartet a musical suicide note, full of explanatory musical quotations. There are high spirits and tranquillity aplenty in his 15 symphonies, 15 quartets, six concertos and brilliant solo piano pieces, but the personal tragedy of Shostakovich's life and the Russian experience is never far away in his music.