A few years ago I tried writing a few essays, some of which appeared on a now retired website and after I do some scrounging around I'll try to post some of those eessays here. There's one in particular called "The Composer in the Evil Empire" that I wrote in consideration of Shostakovich, whose centennial happens to be this year.
Shostakovich is an interesting dude. His music varies widly in quality. If Hindemith or Bartok have a bad day composing their music is simply dull but when Shostakovich has a bad day composing his music is nothing less than infuriating. There's no small difference between blandly forgettable and infuriatingly memorable. I still regret the hours I spent trying to slog through symphonies 2 and 3 by Shostakvoich. But his string quartets are all fantastic. Anyway, since this is the year to wax whatever about Shostakovich, for or against, I'll try to scrounge up an essay later.