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In the twentieth century, Russia continued to produce some of the world's foremost composers and musicians, despite the suppression by Soviet authorities of both music and performances. Restrictions on what musicians played and where they performed caused many artists to leave the Soviet Union either voluntarily or through forced exile, but the works of the émigrés continued to draw large audiences whenever they were performed. 

Musical composition in the Soviet Union in the 1920s and 1930s was primarily connected with the names of Prokofiev, Shostakovich, and Khachaturian. Prokofiev distinguished himself in his piano pieces Obsession and Sarcasms, his ballet The Buffoon, and his Classical Symphony. After spending about fifteen years abroad, he returned to Russia in 1934 to compose his best-known works, including the ballets Romeo and Juliet and Cinderella, the operas Betrothal in a Convent and War and Peace, and Symphonies Nos. 5, 6 and 7.


Shostakovich is famous primarily as a symphonist, who continued the musical tradition of Beethoven, Tchaikovsky and Mahler. He produced 15 symphonies, 15 quartets, a number piano pieces, and film and theater music. During Stalins period in power Prokofiev and Shostakovich were severely criticized by Soviet authorities for formalism in music. Their work would receive full recognition only in the 1960s and 70s.

Works by Aram Khachaturian are characterized by a fusion of Western harmonies with pentatonic scales typical of Oriental music. They include three symphonies, several concertos for piano, violin and violoncello, and the ballets Gayaneh and Spartacus.

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