by Fiona Sturges

Dmitri Shostakovich, the composer behind some of the darkest, most sorrowful music ever written, had much to be sad about during his life, from the horrors of the Second World War to the tyranny of Stalin, who periodically denounced his work. In this unusual documentary marking the centenary of the composer’s birth, Stephen Johnson, who has been diagnosed with serious clinical depression, reveals how the music of Shostakovich has helped him to survive his illness.

Johnson tells of his battles with depression, visits Moscow and St Petersburg, ad meets those who knew Shostakovich, among them Alexandra Mravinsky, the widow of the conductor Yevgenny Mravinsky, and the composer Boris Tishenko. He also finds out how contemporary Russians relate to Shostakovich and what his music means to a country still coming to terms with its past.