He was in many ways an obsessive man … he was obsessed with cleanliness, he synchronised the clocks in his apartment; he regularly sent cards to himself to test how well the postal service was working. …the composer was "fragile and nervously agile" … "The fact that he was more vulnerable and receptive than other people was no doubt an important feature of his genius"
In his lighter moods, sport was one of his main recreations, although he preferred spectating or umpiring to participating (he was a qualified football referee. He also enjoyed playing card games, particularly Patience. Both light and dark sides of his character were evident in his fondness for satirical writers such as Gogol, Chekhov and Mikhail Zoshchenko. The influence of the latter in particular is evident in his letters, which include wry parodies of Soviet officialese.
… the contradictions in the composer's character: "he is … frail, fragile, withdrawn, an infinitely direct, pure child … [but he is also] hard, acid, extremely intelligent, strong perhaps, despotic and not altogether good-natured (although cerebrally good-natured)"
He was diffident by nature: … he was "completely incapable of saying 'No' to anybody." This meant he was easily persuaded to sign official statements, including a denunciation of Andrei Sakharov in 1973; on the other hand he was willing to try to help constituents in his capacities as chairman of the Composers' Union and Deputy to the Supreme Soviet. … "he tried to help so many people that … less and less attention was paid to his pleas."