Shostakovich is probably the best-known 20th-century symphonist. His mature orchestral works were influenced by Mahler and have a broad scope, juxtaposing sublime music and parodies. His music is tonal and, because of Soviet decrees, his large-scale public works are sometimes intentionally traditional in form and expression. He is famous for a lush, expansive orchestration that evokes late-19th-century composers like Mahler.
- Favoring fifteen: Shostakovich wrote 15 symphonies and the same number of string quartets. Both genres span wide ranges of his creative life: He completed his First Symphony when he was only 19 years old, whereas his final quartet dates from 1974, less than a year before he died.
- Tonal irony The string quartets and much of the chamber music, such as the two piano quartets and the song cycle From Jewish Folk Poetry, are still tonal, though more experimental, and expressive of the composer's ironic side and his often bleak outlook on life. Among the most popular are the Eighth and 15th quartets.