Shostakovich and Stalin: The Extraordinary Relationship Between the Great Composer and the Brutal Dictator

By Solomon Volkov

“Music illuminates anyone and gives him together with his final desire; even Stalin, a butcher, knew that.” So stated the Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich, whose first compositions within the Twenties pointed out him as an avant-garde wunderkind. yet that very same singularity grew to become a legal responsibility a decade later less than the totalitarian rule of Stalin, along with his unpredictable grounds for the persecution of artists. Solomon Volkov—who cowrote Shostakovich’s debatable 1979 memoir, Testimony—describes how this deadly uncertainty affected the composer’s existence and paintings.

Volkov, an expert on Soviet Russian tradition, exhibits us the “holy idiot” in Shostakovich: the reality speaker who dared to problem the superb powers. We see how Shostakovich struggled to stay devoted to himself in his song and the way Stalin fueled that fight: one minute banning his paintings, the following encouraging it. We see how a few of Shostakovich’s contemporaries—Mandelstam, Bulgakov, and Pasternak between them—fell sufferer to Stalin’s manipulations and the way Shostakovich slightly shunned an analogous destiny. And we see the mental expense he paid for what a few perceived as self-serving aloofness and others observed as rightfully defended individuality.

This is a revelatory account of the connection among one of many 20th century’s maximum composers and certainly one of its so much notorious tyrants.

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This had an impact at the already complex courting among Prokofiev and Shostakovich, whom Stalin hence pressured, in fairly a Machiavellian demeanour, to vie for the unofficial place of best Soviet composer. (Stalin pitted humans jointly this fashion in different parts of tradition, too: literature, theater, movie. ) initially Shostakovich taken care of Prokofiev, who was once fifteen years older, as an esteemed grasp. Prokofiev was once self-confident and sarcastic. whilst he got here from Paris to the Soviet Union in 1927 as a celebrated visitor megastar, his perspective towards the younger Shostakovich was once condescending.

Ibid. , p. 111. L. Mikheeva, Zhizn’ Dmitriia Shostakovicha (Moscow, 1997), p. 20. Tynianovskii sbornik. Tret’i tynianovskie chteniia (Riga, 1988), p. 299. Alexander Blok, Sobranie sochinenii, eight vols. , vol. 6 (Moscow–Leningrad, 1963), pp. 16–17. Quoted from: Dmitri Merezhkovsky, Bol’naia Rossiia (Leningrad, 1991), p. 226. Russkaia mysl’, 14 April 1989. Vladimir Mayakovsky, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii, thirteen vols. , vol. 12 (Moscow, 1959), p. 7. Literaturnoe Nasledstvo, vol. sixty five: Novoe o Mayakovskom (Moscow, 1958), p. 573.

The power of Shostakovich’s “sober mockery,” as Bakhtin may have it, within the chaotic postwar years used to be remembered via the composer Sergei Slonimsky: “And we, youngsters then, immediately felt the particular appropriateness and necessity of that song in these days. Subconsciously we perceived the polemical which means of the 9th, its well timed mockery of every kind of hypocrisy, pseudomonumentality, and bombastic grandiloquence. ” 70 Many musical indicators and authorial tricks let us relate the 9th Symphony to Bulgakov’s grasp and Margarita—more accurately, with the Moscow a part of the unconventional.

Anna Akhmatova, in dialog with the writer, Komarovo, 1965. Pravda, 26 October 1958. Literaturnaia gazeta, 1 November 1958. Pravda, eight June 1958. Nikita Khrushchev, Vospominaniia. Izbrannye otryvki (New York, 1979), p. 272. E. Pasternak, Boris Pasternak, p. 712. Ibid. , p. 710. V. Kaverin, Epilog. Memuary (Moscow, 1989), p. 366. E. Pasternak, Boris Pasternak, p. 727. Quoted in: A. Turkov, A. P. Chekhov i ego vremia (Moscow, 1980), p. 225. For this see: Pis’ma okay drugu, pp. 160–1; Lebedinsky, Bessistemnye zapisi (typed replica of manuscript within the archive of Solomon Volkov).

84–5. Vlast’ i khudozhestvennaia intelligentsiia, p. 487. Sergei Eisenstein, Memuary, vol. 1 (Moscow, 1997), pp. 340–1. Ibid. , p. 352. Ibid. , p. 353. mentioned by means of Grigory Alexandrov, in dialog with the writer, Moscow, 1975. Maksimenkov, Sumbur vmesto muzyki, p. 252. Shentalinsky, Raby svobody, p. fifty eight. S. M. Eisenstein, Izbrannye stat’i (Moscow, 1956), p. 388. Eisenstein, Memuary, vol. 2, p. 399. Maryamov, Kremlevskii tsenzor, p. forty nine. Eisenstein, Memuary, vol. 1, p. 15. Quoted in: Viktor Shklovsky, Eisenstein (Moscow, 1973), p.

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