Symphony 6 in B minor, Op. The latter piece was written to satisfy the Communist party bosses, and they greeted it most favorably. The Twelfth Symphony is dedicated to Lenin and, cast in four connected movements with subtitles, depicts key events of the Bolshevik Revolution.
Elizabeth Wilson is reportedly worried that she hasn't produced the book she wanted to. This is a hugely important work and if any critics say otherwise, you can be sure that they don't know what they're talking about.
Having studied cello in the USSR in the Sixties, during which time she met Shostakovich, Ms Wilson amassed extensive musical contacts in Russia and found herself in an ideal position to write a major book on the composer.
The exigencies of history prevented the undertaking of such a study untilat which point she set out on a round of research and interviews in Russia with the aim of publishing them as a volume in Faber's "Composers Remembered" series.
In the event, the material took two years to gather and a further four years to winnow and edit. Having accumulated too many contributions, she found herself in the invidious position of having to reject even material specially written for her.
One such contribution was by Moisei Vainberg. Despite this, she has been unable to cut her book below pages - a fact which may have annoyed Faber, since it drives a coach-and-horses through their series format guidelines, but for which Shostakovich devotees will be profoundly grateful, since there is relatively little amongst this flood of words which isn't of vital interest to them.
Granted, there is much here which DSCH readers will have seen before: Those who have read Isaak Glikman's Letters to a Friend will likewise find many extracts from it in these pages.
Similarly there is nothing from Manashir Yakubov or the composer's last wife or his children although Wilson did manage to talk to his sister Zoya before her death in The book is a triumph nonetheless in that, despite its author's disingenuous pretence in her preface that her material is somehow mysteriously contradictory, the picture of Shostakovich which emerges from it is overwhelmingly consistent and coherent.
This being so, it's a pity that she feels the need to cover herself against accusations of partiality by espousing, in her introductory remarks, a stance of virtuous detachment which, frankly, none of us is at present entitled to claim.
To wit, she writes that "extreme representations of whatever kind cannot help to facilitate our understanding of Shostakovich's enormous range and depth of vision".
This appears to be a sop to those Western critics who, knowing little about anything beyond musical technique, decline to accept that Shostakovich wasn't a Communist; or, if they do accept it, refuse to concede its relevance to understanding his art. What is extreme to some is moderate to others, and to ordain a point of balance in the Shostakovich debate in is manifestly premature.
After all, the idea that he was a Communist, with all that this entailed in terms of comprehension of his work, is itself almost certainly a complete chimaera, and thus a wild extreme.
Yet nearly everyone who wrote about him prior to Testimony adhered to this extreme without any apparent qualms; indeed, some still do.
It surely behoves all of us to shut up for a while about where we think the Golden Mean lies in Shostakovich's case, particularly since some of us have been so spectacularly inept in identifying it hitherto.
As it happens, Elizabeth Wilson's book so clearly belies her mask of academic caution that one can only assume she donned it in order to trick the diehard sceptics into blundering into these pages unawares.
Since the fact will not, of course, occur to many of our learned colleagues, it's worth stressing right away that the reality evoked in this book is absolutely nightmareish: Anyone who seriously contends that a man like Shostakovich could have left this reality out of his art - or wanted to - is morally, psychologically, and aesthetically incompetent.
I must warn certain parties that I violently object to being charged with an "ideologically" motivated approach to Shostakovich. The issues and motivations are ones of morality and decency, and of nothing else.
The next scribbler to accuse me of being a rabid rightwinger will shortly thereafter encounter me on his doorstep with my social democratic fists arrayed in Marquis of Queensbury mode. My shelves are full of huge tomes detailing the horrors of Soviet Communism in the most compendiously appalling terms, yet I was amazed to discover myself still shockable by the full truth about Shostakovich.
For, as revealed by Elizabeth Wilson's witnesses, it is far worse than even Testimony suggests, and certainly exceeds the most pessimistic deductions made by me in The New Shostakovich. Critics who have spent years claiming that the accounts given by Solomon Volkov and myself are Cold War caricatures will need all the evasiveness and dishonesty they can muster to wriggle out of this one.
Although by no means every depth is plumbed - there's nothing here, for instance, about the rumoured NKVD murder of Ivan Sollertinsky - there are eye-openers a-plenty, not the least startling of which is Nikolayeva's claim that the Tenth Symphony was written intwo years earlier than previously supposed.
While in no way discrediting the post-Testimony view of the work as a musical monument to Stalinism Stalin's death having been fervently anticipated by the Russian liberal intelligentsia for several yearsthe contention is remarkable.
Aside from this, the revelations the book contains are unequivocally on the side of Testimony, the most notable examples being Veniamin Basner's disclosure that, in shortly before writing the Fifth SymphonyShostakovich was closely interrogated by the NKVD about Tukhachevsky's non-existent plot to kill Stalin, and Lyubov' Rudneva's deeply distressing account of the hostile reception given by the Composers' Union to the Preludes and Fugues, Op.
Taken together with Glikman's description of the official rejection meted out to Katerina Ismailova init becomes easy to understand why, four years later, Shostakovich broke down in front of his friend, sobbing that "they" had hounded and pursued him.
This was just before the composer planned to kill himself with an overdose, Malcolm Hamrick Brown please note. Only a few trivial details can conceivably be said to redound to the opposing "anti-revisionist" view.Sep 22, · Three Must-Have Shostakovich Recordings Immersing yourself in Dmitri Shostakovich's complete works would take days, but familiarizing yourself with his music should take no more than an afternoon.
Oct 05, · A review of Shostakovich’s symphonies. Shostakovich, anybody? At his death in , the Soviet composer was regarded by many critics as little more than a musical .
Shostakovich was considered promising by the conservatory staff; he was active as a student composer and wrote his First Symphony as a graduation piece in It was so impressive a work that it premiered in Leningrad, Berlin, and Philadelphia, vaulting Shostakovich to the forefront of Soviet art.
Die-hard Shostakovich complete-ists will want it not only for the 14th, but as a document of a great musical association between the composer and one of his most ardent interpreters and dearest personal friends (akin in its way to the recordings of Mahler by Bruno Walter and Otto Klemperer), but it has much to offer the classical-music beginner, and novice collector as well.
Shostakovich was a master of musical tropes and idioms, the familiar tools by which western art music communicates structure, shape and meaningful content to its listeners. But in this piece he repeatedly turns those tropes against themselves, introducing and immediately complicating their meaning.
Sep 30, · As a spokesman for the oppressed Soviet people, Shostakovich forged a unique musical language drawing heavily upon images of brutal irony, hysterical anger, bitter introspection and mock optimism.
It was an idiom that was capable of subtle innuendo, yet its raw materials are derived from familiar models.