Symphony of the Vines presents The Russian Connection on Sunday, January 6, 3 p.m., at the Atascadero United Methodist Church. The program includes “Concerto for Trumpet and Piano with Orchestra” written by Russian composer Dmitry Shostakovich in 1933.

Here are a few interesting facts about Dmitry Shostakovich, a Russian composer, renowned particularly for his 15 symphonies, numerous chamber works, and concerti, many of them written under the pressures of government-imposed standards of Soviet art.

Dmitry Shostakovich lived from 1906 to 1975. He entered the Petrograd (formerly St. Petersburg, subsequently Leningrad) Conservatory in 1919, where he studied piano with Leonid Nikolayev until 1923 and composition until 1925 with Aleksandr Glazunov and Maksimilian Steinberg.

1. The composer worked as a pianist for silent movies
In 1923, Shostakovich passed the examination for the position of pianist for silent movies. During a 90-minute movie, Shostakovich would improvise. He kept, developed and repeated the musical fragments that he liked, creating a specific tune for each character.

2. The composer’s graduation piece is performed across the world!

Shostakovich wrote Symphony No. 1 as his graduation piece at the age of 19. His symphony was a tremendous success from its premiere, and is still considered today as one of Shostakovich’s finest works

Symphony No. 1 and Waltz No. 2 were included in the soundtrack of Stanley Kubrick’s film Eyes Wide Shut (1999). Stanley Kubrick loved classical music. Jan Harlan, a longtime associate of Kubrick, said that Kubrick cut films to music whenever possible and the Shostakovich waltz was chosen long before the scene was shot for the film starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman.

4. He also wrote operas and popular Soviet songs.

Shostakovich wrote 15 symphonies, three ballets and three operas. However, the composer’s interests were much wider. Shostakovich is the author of a piano cycle of preludes and fugues, film scores, symphonic poems, and the well-loved operetta “Moscow, Cheryomushki,” which is about a district in Moscow full of cheap subsidized housing built in 1956.

5. Films about Shostakovich:
The War Symphonies – Shostakovich Against Stalin (1997)

This documentary delves into the harrowing subject of Stalin’s bloody purge on Russia and Shostakovich’s musical counterattack. The Symphonies Four to Nine (1936-1945) are the composer’s weapons against Stalin’s treatment of his country.

Below is a clip from the documentary that is also available on DVD from

Testimony – The Story of Shostakovich (1988) starring Ben Kingsley.

Directed by Tony Palmer and starring Ben Kingsley as Shostakovich, this 2½ hour film relates the life story of the composer through his relationship with Stalin and how it influenced his mind and music. This feature film is available as a DVD from

You can experience The Russian Connection with Paul Merkelo, trumpet, Robert Cassidy, piano and the Symphony of the Vines Orchestra on Sunday, January 6, 3 p.m., at the Atascadero United Methodist Church, 11605 El Camino Real, Atascadero. Tickets are $15 – $30, and children K-12 are free with a paid adult thanks to a sponsorship from Jim and Carolyn Brescia. Tickets are available at the door or just click below to buy online at

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