DSCH is a musical motif used by the composer Dmitri Shostakovich to represent himself. It is a musical cryptogram in the manner of the BACH motif, consisting of the notes D, E flat, C, B natural, or in German musical notation D, Es, C, H (pronounced as "De-Es-Ce-Ha"), thus standing for the composer's initials in German transliteration: D. Sch. (Dmitri Schostakowitsch), also pronounced as "De-Es-Ce-Ha."
The motif occurs in many of his works, including:
- Violin Concerto No. 1 in A minor, Op. 77
- Symphony No. 10 in E minor, Op. 93
- Cello Concerto No. 1 in E flat major, Op. 107
- String Quartet No. 8 in C minor, Op. 110 (appears in every single movement)
- Symphony No. 15 in A major, Op. 141.
- Piano Sonata No. 2 in B minor, Op. 61 (questionable)[clarification needed]
- Symphony No. 8 in C minor, Op. 65 (only one time, approx. five minutes before the end of the symphony)
- Fugue No. 15 in D-flat major, Op. 87 (only once, in the stretto)
- String Quartet No. 5 in B-flat major, Op. 92
- String Quartet No. 6 in G major, Op. 101 (Played all at once by the four instruments at the end of each movement)
Many homages to Shostakovich (such as Schnittke's Prelude in memory of Dmitri Shostakovich or Tsintsadze's 9th String Quartet) make extensive use of the motif. The British composer Ronald Stevenson composed a large Passacaglia on it. Also Edison Denisov dedicated some works (1969 DSCH for clarinet, trombone, cello and piano, and his 1970 saxophone sonata) to Shostakovich, by quoting the motif several times and using it as the first 4 notes of a twelve-tone series. Denisov was Shostakovich's protégé for a long time.
One of Benjamin Britten's most famous works, Rejoice in the Lamb, contains the DSCH motif repeated several times in the accompaniment, progressively getting louder each time, finally at fortissimo over the chords accompanying "And the watchman strikes me with his staff". The vocal text given to the motive is "silly fellow, silly fellow, is against me".
A further reference appears in Britten's The Rape of Lucretia, where the DSCH motif acts as the main structural component of Lucretia's aria "Give him this orchid."
The contemporary Italian composer Lorenzo Ferrero made use of it in DEsCH, a composition for oboe, bassoon, piano and orchestra written in 2006 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Shostakovich's birth, and in Op.111 - Bagatella su Beethoven (2009), which blends themes from the Piano Sonata No. 32 in C minor, Op.111 by Ludwig van Beethoven with the Shostakovich musical monogram.
The motif was also incorporated by Chumbawamba in Hammer, Stirrup and Anvil (2009), their song about Shostakovich's career under Stalin.
Danny Elfman, in his Russian influenced score for the 1995 film "Dolores Claiborne," opened the film with the DSCH motif and, subsequently, used it throughout as a nod to Schostakovich's 8th String Quartet (which he cites on his Oct 10, 2006 Apple i-Tunes playlist as "Simply one of the most beautiful, exquisitely sad, and soulful pieces of music I've ever heard").
DSCH Journal, the standard journal of Shostakovich studies, takes its name from the motif, and "DSCH" is sometimes used as an abbreviation of the composer's name.
DSCH Publishers is a Moscow publishing house that published the 150-volume New Collected Works of Dmitri Shostakovich in 2005, 25% of which contained previously unpublished works.
A simple audio file containing the DSCH Motif alone
|Problems playing this file? See media help.|
- Brown, Stephen C., “Tracing the Origins of Shostakovich’s Musical Motto,” Intégral 20 (2006): 69–103.
- Gasser, Mark. "Ronald Stevenson, Composer-Pianist: An Exegetical Critique from a Pianistic Perspective". PhD diss. [Western Australia]: Edith Cowan University, 2013.