In classical music, a symphony is an extended musical composition, scored almost always for orchestra. "Symphony" does not necessarily imply a specific form though most are composed according to the sonata principle. Many symphonies are tonal works in four movements with the first in sonata form and this is often described by music theorists as the structure of a "classical" symphony, although many symphonies by the acknowledged classical masters of the form, Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven, do not conform to this model.
The word symphony derives from Greek συμφωνία, meaning "agreement or concord of sound", "concert of vocal or instrumental music", from σύμφωνος, "harmonious" (Oxford English Dictionary). This Greek word was used to describe an instrument mentioned in the Book of Daniel once identified by scholars as a bagpipe (this is identified as the root of the name of the Italian zampogna) (Stainer and Galpin 1914,). However, more recent scholarly opinion points out that the word in the Book of Daniel is siphonia (from Greek siphon, reed), and concludes that the bagpipe did not exist at so early a time, though the name of the "zampogna" could still have been derived from this word (Marcuse 1975, 501 & 597). In late Greek and medieval theory, the word was used for consonance, as opposed to diaphonia, which was the word for dissonance (Brown 2001). In the Middle Ages and later, the Latin form symphonia was used to describe various instruments, especially those capable of producing more than one sound simultaneously (Brown 2001). Isidore of Seville was the first to use the word symphonia as the name of a two-headed drum, and from ca. 1155 to 1377 the French form symphonie was the name of the organistrum or hurdy-gurdy. In late medieval England, symphony was used in both of these senses, whereas by the sixteenth century it was equated with the dulcimer. In German, Symphonie was a generic term for spinets and virginals from the late 16th century to the 18th century (Marcuse 1975, 501). In the sense of "sounding together" the word begins to appear in the titles of some works by 16th- and 17th-century composers including Giovanni Gabrieli (Sacrae symphoniae, 1597, and Symphoniae sacrae, liber secundus, 1615), Adriano Banchieri (Eclesiastiche sinfonie, 1607), Lodovico Grossi da Viadana (Sinfonie musicali, 1610), and Heinrich Schütz (Symphoniae sacrae, 1629).
In the 17th century, for most of the Baroque period, the terms symphony and sinfonia were used for a range of different compositions, including instrumental pieces used in operas, sonatas and concertos—usually part of a larger work. The opera sinfonia, or Italian overture had, by the 18th century, a standard structure of three contrasting movements: fast; slow; fast and dance-like. It is this form that is often considered as the direct forerunner of the orchestral symphony. The terms "overture", "symphony" and "sinfonia" were widely regarded as interchangeable for much of the 18th century.
Another important progenitor of the symphony was the ripieno concerto—a relatively little-explored form resembling a concerto for strings and continuo, but with no solo instruments. The earliest known ripieno concerti are by Giuseppe Torelli (his set of six, opus five, 1698). Perhaps the best known ripieno concerto is Johann Sebastian Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 3.
Early symphonies, in common with both overtures and ripieno concertos, have three movements, in the tempi quick-slow-quick. However, unlike the ripieno concerto, which uses the usual ritornello form of the concerto, at least the first movement of these symphonies is in binary form. They are distinguishable from Italian overtures in that they were written to stand on their own in concert performances, rather than to introduce a stage work—although a piece originally written as an overture was sometimes later used as a symphony, and vice versa.
Symphonies at this time, whether for concert, opera, or church use, were not considered the major works on a program: often, as with concerti, they were divided up between other works, or drawn from suites or overtures. Vocal music was dominant, and symphonies provided preludes, interludes, and postludes.
The "Italian" style of symphony, often used as overture and entr'acte in opera houses, became a standard three movement form: a fast movement, a slow movement, and then another fast movement. Mozart's early symphonies are in this layout. The early three-movement form was eventually replaced by a four-movement layout, through the addition of an additional middle movement (Prout 1895, 249), which was dominant in the latter part of the 18th century and most of the 19th century. This symphonic form was influenced by Germanic practice, and would come to be associated with the "classical style" of Haydn and Mozart. "Normative macro-symphonic form may be defined as the four-movement form generally employed in the later symphonies of Haydn and Mozart, and in those of Beethoven" (Jackson 1999, 26).
The normal four-movement form became, then (Jackson 1999, 26; Stein 1979, 106):
Variations on this layout were common, for instance the order of the middle two movements, or the addition of a slow introduction to the first movement. Older composers such as Haydn and Mozart restricted their use of the four-movement form to orchestral or multi-instrument chamber music such as quartets, though since Beethoven solo sonatas are as often as written in four as in three movements (Prout 1895, 249). Tchaikovsky's Third Symphony has a five-movement form through the addition of an "Alla tedesca" 'movement' between the first and the second (Jackson 1999, 26).
The composition of early symphonies was centred on Vienna and Mannheim. Early exponents of the form in Vienna included Georg Christoph Wagenseil, Wenzel Raimund Birck and Georg Monn, while the Mannheim school included Johann Stamitz.
Later significant Viennese composers of symphonies include Johann Baptist Vanhal, Karl Ditters von Dittersdorf and Leopold Hoffmann. The most important symphonists of the latter part of the 18th century are Joseph Haydn, who wrote at least 108 symphonies over the course of 36 years (Webster and Feder 2001), and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who wrote at least 56 symphonies in 24 years (Eisen and Sadie 2001).
With the rise of established professional orchestras, the symphony assumed a more prominent place in concert life between approximately 1790 and 1820.
Beethoven dramatically expanded the symphony. His Symphony No. 3 (the Eroica), has a scale and emotional range which sets it apart from earlier works. His Symphony No. 5 is arguably the most famous symphony ever written. His Symphony No. 9 takes the unprecedented step (for a symphony) of including parts for vocal soloists and choir in the last movement, making it a choral symphony (however, a minor composer, Daniel Steibelt had written a piano concerto with a choral finale four years earlier, in 1820). Hector Berlioz, who coined the term "choral symphony," built on this concept in his "dramatic symphony" Roméo et Juliette while explaining his intent in the five-paragraph introduction in that work's score (Berlioz 1857, 1). In Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony, a program work, the composer inserted a "storm" section before the final movement; Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique, a work famous for its exceptional orchestration is also a programme work and has both a march and a waltz and five movements instead of the customary four.
Notable early romantic symphonists include Beethoven, Schubert, Mendelssohn, and Schumann. Late romantic symphonists include Bruckner, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, and Dvorak.
By the end of the 19th century, some French organists (e.g. Charles-Marie Widor) named some of their organ compositions symphony: their instruments (many built by Aristide Cavaillé-Coll) allowed an orchestral approach (Thomson 2001).
At the beginning of the 20th century, Gustav Mahler wrote long, large-scale symphonies (his eighth is nicknamed the "Symphony of a Thousand" because of the forces required to perform it). The 20th century also saw further diversification in the style and content of works which composers labelled as "symphonies" (Anon. 2008). Some composers, including Dmitri Shostakovich, Sergei Rachmaninoff and Carl Nielsen, continued to write in the traditional four-movement form, while other composers took different approaches: Jean Sibelius' Symphony No. 7, his last, is in one movement, whereas Alan Hovhaness's Symphony No. 9, Saint Vartan (1949–50) is in twenty-four.
There remained, however, certain tendencies: symphonies were still, almost always, orchestral works. Designating a work a "symphony" still implied a degree of sophistication and seriousness of purpose. The word sinfonietta came into use to designate a work that was "lighter" than a symphony, such as Prokofiev's Sinfonietta.
There have also been diversification in the size of orchestra required. While Mahler's symphonies call for extravagant resources, Arnold Schoenberg's Chamber Symphony No. 1 and John Coolidge Adams's Chamber Symphony are scored for chamber groups.
In the 20th and early 21st century symphonies have been written for wind ensemble and band. Notable examples are Paul Hindemith's Symphony in B-flat for band (1951) (Hansen 2005, 95), and Alan Hovhaness's Symphonies Nos. 4, 7, 14, and 23, which are symphonic works for school and college wind bands.
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|Sidney Lanier composed this poem in Baltimore, Maryland in 1875.|
“O Trade! O Trade! would thou wert dead!
The Time needs heart—‘tis tired of head:
We’re all for love,” the violins said.
“Of what avail the rigorous tale
Of bill for coin and box for bale?
Grant thee, O Trade! thine uttermost hope:
Level red gold with blue sky-slope,
And base it deep as devils grope:
When all’s done, what hast thou won
Of the only sweet that’s under the sun?
Ay, canst thou buy a single sigh
Of true love’s least, least ecstasy?”
Then, with a bridegroom’s heart-beats trembling,
All the mightier strings assembling
Ranged them on the violins’ side
As when the bridegroom leads the bride,
And, heart in voice, together cried:
“Yea, what avail the endless tale
Of gain by cunning and plus by sale?
Look up the land, look down the land
The poor, the poor, the poor, they stand
Wedged by the pressing of Trade’s hand
Against an inward-opening door
That pressure tightens evermore:
They sigh a monstrous foul-air sigh
For the outside leagues of liberty,
Where Art, sweet lark, translates the sky
Into a heavenly melody.
‘Each day, all day’ (these poor folks say),
‘In the same old year-long, drear-long way,
We weave in the mills and heave in the kilns,
We sieve mine-meshes under the hills,
And thieve much gold from the Devil’s bank tills,
To relieve, O God, what manner of ills? —
The beasts, they hunger, and eat, and die;
And so do we, and the world’s a sty;
Hush, fellow-swine: why nuzzle and cry?
“Swinehood hath no remedy”
Say many men, and hasten by,
Clamping the nose and blinking the eye.
But who said once, in the lordly tone,
“Man shall not live by bread alone
But all that cometh from the Throne?”
Hath God said so?
But Trade saith “No:”
And the kilns and the curt-tongued mills say “Go!
There’s plenty that can, if you can’t: we know.
Move out, if you think you’re underpaid.
The poor are prolific; we’re not afraid;
Trade is trade.”’”
Thereat this passionate protesting
Meekly changed, and softened till
It sank to sad requesting
And suggesting sadder still:
“And oh, if men might some time see
How piteous-false the poor decree
That trade no more than trade must be!
Does business mean, ‘Die, you—live, I?’
Then ‘Trade is trade’ but sings a lie:
’Tis only war grown miserly.
If business is battle, name it so:
War-crimes less will shame it so,
And widows less will blame it so.
Alas, for the poor to have some part
In yon sweet living lands of Art,
Makes problem not for head, but heart.
Vainly might Plato’s brain revolve it:
Plainly the heart of a child could solve it.”
And then, as when from words that seem but rude
We pass to silent pain that sits abrood
Back in our heart’s great dark and solitude,
So sank the strings to gentle throbbing
Of long chords change-marked with sobbing—
Motherly sobbing, not distinctlier heard
Than half wing-openings of the sleeping bird,
Some dream of danger to her young hath stirred.
Then stirring and demurring ceased, and lo!
Every least ripple of the strings’ song-flow
Died to a level with each level bow
And made a great chord tranquil-surfaced so,
As a brook beneath his curving bank doth go
To linger in the sacred dark and green
Where many boughs the still pool overlean
And many leaves make shadow with their sheen.
A velvet flute-note fell down pleasantly
Upon the bosom of that harmony,
And sailed and sailed incessantly,
As if a petal from a wild-rose blown
Had fluttered down upon that pool of tone
And boatwise dropped o’ the convex side
And floated down the glassy tide
And clarified and glorified
The solemn spaces where the shadows bide.
From the warm concave of that fluted note
Somewhat, half song, half odor, forth did float,
As if a rose might somehow be a throat:
“When Nature from her far-off glen
Flutes her soft messages to men,
The flute can say them o’er again;
Yea, Nature, singing sweet and lone,
Breathes through life’s strident polyphone
The flute-voice in the world of tone.
Man’s love ascends
To finer and diviner ends
Than man’s mere thought e’er comprehends
For I, e’en I,
As here I lie,
A petal on a harmony,
Demand of Science whence and why
Man’s tender pain, man’s inward cry,
When he doth gaze on earth and sky?
I am not overbold:
Full powers from Nature manifold.
I speak for each no-tongued tree
That, spring by spring, doth nobler be,
And dumbly and most wistfully
His mighty prayerful arms outspreads
Above men’s oft-unheeding heads,
And his big blessing downward sheds.
I speak for all-shaped blooms and leaves,
Lichens on stones and moss on eaves,
Grasses and grains in ranks and sheaves;
Broad-fronded ferns and keen-leaved canes,
And briery mazes bounding lanes,
And marsh-plants, thirsty-cupped for rains,
And milky stems and sugary veins;
For every long-armed woman-vine
That round a piteous tree doth twine;
For passionate odors, and divine
Pistils, and petals crystalline;
All purities of shady springs,
All shynesses of film-winged things
That fly from tree-trunks and bark-rings;
All modesties of mountain-fawns
That leap to covert from wild lawns,
And tremble if the day but dawns;
All sparklings of small beady eyes
Of birds, and sidelong glances wise
Wherewith the jay hints tragedies;
All piquancies of prickly burs,
And smoothnesses of downs and furs
Of eiders and of minevers;
All limpid honeys that do lie
At stamen-bases, nor deny
The humming-birds’ fine roguery,
Bee-thighs, nor any butterfly;
All gracious curves of slender wings,
Fern-wavings and leaf-flickerings;
Each dial-marked leaf and flower-bell
Wherewith in every lonesome dell
Time to himself his hours doth tell;
All tree-sounds, rustlings of pine-cones,
Wind-sighings, doves’ melodious moans,
And night’s unearthly under-tones;
All placid lakes and waveless deeps,
All cool reposing mountain-steeps,
Vale-calms and tranquil lotos-sleeps; —
Yea, all fair forms, and sounds, and lights,
And warmths, and mysteries, and mights,
Of Nature’s utmost depths and heights,
—These doth my timid tongue present,
Their mouthpiece and leal instrument
And servant, all love-eloquent.
I heard, when ‘“All for love”’ the violins cried:
So, Nature calls through all her system wide,
‘Give me thy love, O man, so long denied.’
Much time is run, and man hath changed his ways,
Since Nature, in the antique fable-days,
Was hid from man’s true love by proxy fays,
False fauns and rascal gods that stole her praise.
The nymphs, cold creatures of man’s colder brain,
Chilled Nature’s streams till man’s warm heart was fain
Never to lave its love in them again.
Later, a sweet Voice ‘Love thy neighbor’ said;
Then first the bounds of neighborhood outspread
Beyond all confines of old ethnic dread.
Vainly the Jew might wag his covenant head:
‘“All men are neighbors,”’ so the sweet Voice said.
So, when man’s arms had circled all man’s race,
The liberal compass of his warm embrace
Stretched bigger yet in the dark bounds of space;
With hands a-grope he felt smooth Nature’s grace,
Drew her to breast and kissed her sweetheart face:
Yea man found neighbors in great hills and trees
And streams and clouds and suns and birds and bees,
And throbbed with neighbor-loves in loving these.
But oh, the poor! the poor! the poor!
That stand by the inward-opening door
Trade’s hand doth tighten ever more,
And sigh their monstrous foul-air sigh
For the outside hills of liberty,
Where Nature spreads her wild blue sky
For Art to make into melody!
Thou Trade! thou king of the modern days!
Change thy ways,
Change thy ways;
Let the sweaty laborers file
A little while,
A little while,
Where Art and Nature sing and smile.
Trade! is thy heart all dead, all dead?
And hast thou nothing but a head?
I’m all for heart,” the flute-voice said,
And into sudden silence fled,
Like as a blush that while ’tis red
Dies to a still, still white instead.
Thereto a thrilling calm succeeds,
Till presently the silence breeds
A little breeze among the reeds
That seems to blow by sea-marsh weeds:
Then from the gentle stir and fret
Sings out the melting clarionet,
Like as a lady sings while yet
Her eyes with salty tears are wet.
“O Trade! O Trade!” the Lady said,
“I too will wish thee utterly dead
If all thy heart is in thy head.
For O my God! and O my God!
What shameful ways have women trod
At beckoning of Trade’s golden rod!
Alas when sighs are traders’ lies,
And heart’s-ease eyes and violet eyes
O purchased lips that kiss with pain!
O cheeks coin-spotted with smirch and stain!
O trafficked hearts that break in twain!
—And yet what wonder at my sisters’ crime?
So hath Trade withered up Love’s sinewy prime,
Men love not women as in olden time.
Ah, not in these cold merchantable days
Deem men their life an opal gray, where plays
The one red Sweet of gracious ladies’-praise.
Now, comes a suitor with sharp prying eye—
Says, ‘Here, you Lady, if you’ll sell, I’ll buy:
Come, heart for heart—a trade? What! weeping? why?’
Shame on such wooers’ dapper mercery!
I would my lover kneeling at my feet
In humble manliness should cry, ‘O sweet!
I know not if thy heart my heart will greet:
I ask not if thy love my love can meet:
Whate’er thy worshipful soft tongue shall say,
I’ll kiss thine answer, be it yea or nay:
I do but know I love thee, and I pray
To be thy knight until my dying day.’
Woe him that cunning trades in hearts contrives!
Base love good women to base loving drives.
If men loved larger, larger were our lives;
And wooed they nobler, won they nobler wives.”
There thrust the bold straightforward horn
To battle for that lady lorn,
With heartsome voice of mellow scorn,
Like any knight in knighthood’s morn.
“Now comfort thee,” said he,
For God shall right thy grievous wrong,
And man shall sing thee a true-love song,
Voiced in act his whole life long,
Yea, all thy sweet life long,
Where’s he that craftily hath said,
The day of chivalry is dead?
I’ll prove that lie upon his head,
Or I will die instead,
Is Honor gone into his grave?
Hath Faith become a caitiff knave,
And Selfhood turned into a slave
To work in Mammon’s cave,
Will Truth’s long blade ne’er gleam again?
Hath Giant Trade in dungeons slain
All great contempts of mean-got gain
And hates of inward stain,
For aye shall name and fame be sold,
And place be hugged for the sake of gold,
And smirch-robed Justice feebly scold
At Crime all money-bold,
Shall self-wrapt husbands aye forget
Kiss-pardons for the daily fret
Wherewith sweet wifely eyes are wet—
Blind to lips kiss-wise set—
Shall lovers higgle, heart for heart,
Till wooing grows a trading mart
Where much for little, and all for part,
Make love a cheapening art,
Shall woman scorch for a single sin
That her betrayer may revel in,
And she be burnt, and he but grin
When that the flames begin,
Shall ne’er prevail the woman’s plea,
‘We maids would far, far whiter be
If that our eyes might sometimes see
Men maids in purity,’
Shall Trade aye salve his conscience-aches
With jibes at Chivalry’s old mistakes—
The wars that o’erhot knighthood makes
For Christ’s and ladies’ sakes,
Now by each knight that e’er hath prayed
To fight like a man and love like a maid,
Since Pembroke’s life, as Pembroke’s blade,
I’ the scabbard, death, was laid,
I dare avouch my faith is bright
That God doth right and God hath might.
Nor time hath changed His hair to white,
Nor His dear love to spite,
I doubt no doubts: I strive, and shrive my clay,
And fight my fight in the patient modern way
For true love and for thee—ah me! and pray
To be thy knight until my dying day,
Made end that knightly horn, and spurred away
Into the thick of the melodious fray.
And then the hautboy played and smiled,
And sang like any large-eyed child,
Cool-hearted and all undefiled.
“Huge Trade!” he said,
“Would thou wouldst lift me on thy head
And run where’er my finger led!
Once said a Man—and wise was He—
‘Never shalt thou the heavens see,
Save as a little child thou be.’”
Then o’er sea-lashings of commingling tunes
The ancient wise bassoons,
Old harpers sitting on the high sea-dunes,
“Bright-waved gain, gray-waved loss,
The sea of all doth lash and toss,
One wave forward and one across:
But now ‘twas trough, now ’tis crest,
And worst doth foam and flash to best,
And curst to blest.
Life! Life! thou sea-fugue, writ from east to west,
Love, Love alone can pore
On thy dissolving score
Of harsh half-phrasings,
Blotted ere writ,
And double erasings
Of chords most fit.
Yea, Love, sole music-master blest,
May read thy weltering palimpsest.
To follow Time’s dying melodies through,
And never to lose the old in the new,
And ever to solve the discords true—
Love alone can do.
And ever Love hears the poor-folks’ crying,
And ever Love hears the women’s sighing,
And ever sweet knighthood’s death-defying,
And ever wise childhood’s deep implying,
But never a trader’s glozing and lying.
And yet shall Love himself be heard,
Though long deferred, though long deferred:
O’er the modern waste a dove hath whirred:
Music is Love in search of a word.”
SYMPHONY in music. I. The term ovµc/xwvia was used by the Greeks, firstly, to denote the general conception of concord, both between successive sounds and in the unison of simultaneous sounds; secondly, in the special sense of concordant pairs of successive sounds (i.e. the "perfect intervals" of modern music; the 4th, 5th and octave); and thirdly as dealing with TO avricwvov, the concord of the octave, thus meaning the art of singing in octaves, or magadizing, as opposed to oµ04wvia, or singing and playing in unison. In Roman times the word appears in the general sense which still survives in poetry, viz. as harmonious concourse of voices and instruments. It also appears to mean a concert. In St Luke xv. 25, it is distinguished from xopot, and the passage is appropriately translated in the English Bible as "music and dancing." Polybius and others seem to use it as the name of a musical instrument.
2. In the 17th century the term is used, like "concerto," for certain vocal compositions accompanied by instruments, e.g. the Kleine geistliche Concerte and Symphoniae sacrae of Schutz. Most of SchUtz's works of this class are for from one to three solo voices in various combinations with instruments. The Geistliche Concerte are generally accompanied by figured bass and are to German texts; and the voices may in many cases be choral. The Symphoniae sacrae are to Latin texts and are written for various combinations of instruments, while the voice parts are evidently for solo singers. The word symphony is sometimes used for the instrumental ritornello of songs and vocal movements in aria form. In this sense it already appears in No. 28 of the second book of Schiitz's Geistliche Concerte. 3. The principal modern meaning of the word is a sonata for orchestra (see Sonata Forms). The orchestral symphony originated in the operatic overture, which in the middle of the 18th century began to assimilate the essentials of the sonata style. At first such sonata-style overtures consisted of three movements, viz. a moderately quick binary movement, a short slow movement, and a lively finale. Thus Mozart, at the age of twelve, used his 7th symphony as the overture to La Finta semplice, and Haydn's maturest symphonies are still called overtures in some early editions. La Finta giardiniera, written by Mozart in his eighteenth year, marks the differentiation of the opera overture from the independent symphony, since it contains the usual first movement and slow movement, but the curtain rises with what sounds like the beginning of the finale.
The sonata style was not at first invariably associated with what we now call sonata form, nor indeed was that form at first the most favourable to the dramatic expression desirable for operatic music. Hence the overtures of Gluck are generally in forms based on the contrast of loosely knit passages of various textures; forms which he probably learned from San Martini, and which may be found in the concertos of Vivaldi, so many of which were freely transcribed by Sebastian Bach. These methods are no less evident in the symphonies of Philipp Emmanuel Bach, which thus occupy an analogous place, away from the normal line of the sonata style. The differentiation between symphony and overture was of immense importance in raising the dignity of the symphony; but the style was more essential than the form; and in Mozart's and Haydn's mature works we find the sonata form as firmly established in the overture as in the symphony, while nevertheless the styles and scope of the two forms are quite distinct. Mozart's most elaborate overture, that of Die Zauberflote, could not possibly be the first movement of one of his later symphonies; nor could the finale of his-"Jupiter" symphony (which has often been compared with that overture because of its use of fugato) conceivably be used as the prelude to an opera.
The first movement of a symphony can be a fast movement, often in sonata form. The second movement can be a slow movement. The third movement can be a minuet or scherzo and a trio. The fourth movement may be called “Finale”; it can be in Rondo form or sonata form or a combination of these. There are lots of different ways of writing a symphony, but this is the pattern that was used by Joseph Haydn who is known as the “Father of the Symphony”, and many composers since have used his pattern of movements for their symphonies.
The word “symphony” comes from the Greek words “sym” (together) and “phone” (sound).
“Symphonic” means “like a symphony”. It is often used to describe music which is quite long and develops tunes over a long period.
A large orchestra is often called a “symphony orchestra”. This is to distinguish it from a small orchestra called a “chamber orchestra”.
Some of the most famous composers of symphonies are Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Schubert, Felix Mendelssohn, Robert Schumann, Anton Bruckner, Johannes Brahms, Pyotr Tchaikovsky, Gustav Mahler, Jean Sibelius and Dmitri Shostakovich.