DSCH (Dmitri Shostakovich)

DSCH is a musical motif used by the Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich to represent himself, in the manner of the BACH motif of Johann Sebastian Bach. It consists of the notes D-E flat-C-B, or D-Es-C-H in German notation, standing for his initials (Д. Ш.) in German spelling (D. Sch.).

The motif occurs in many of his works, including the Symphony No. 10 in E minor, the String Quartet No. 8 in C minor, the Violin Concerto No. 1 in A minor, the Cello Concerto No. 1 in E flat Major, the Symphony No. 15 in A Major and the Opus 61 Piano Sonata No. 2 in B minor.

Many homages to Shostakovich (such as Schnittke's Preludy in memory of Dmitri Shostakovich or Tsintsadze's 9th String Quartet) make extensive use of the motif. The British composer Ronald Stevenson composed a vast 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 protegé 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 on fortissimo over the thunderous chords accompanying "And the watchman strikes me with his staff". The vocal text over the motive is "silly fellow, silly fellow, is against me".

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.



  • Brown, Stephen C., “Tracing the Origins of Shostakovich’s Musical Motto,” Intégral 20 (2006): 69-103.

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