REVIEW Ç Shostakovich A Life

Shostakovich A Life

SUMMARY Shostakovich A Life

Hony written as a protest against fascism was performed in Nazi besieged Leningrad by the city's surviving musicians and was triumphantly broadcast to the German troops who had been bombarded beforehand to silence them Alone among his artistic peers he survived successive Stalinist cultural purges and won the Stalin Prize five times yet in 1948 he was dismissed from his conservatory teaching positions and many of his works were banned from performance He prudently censored himself in one case putting aside a work based on Jewish folk poems Under later reg. 'It was in response to these critics that Shostakovich blithely uipped in a lette

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For this authoritative post cold war biography of Shostakovich's illustrious but turbulent career under Soviet rule Laurel E Fay has gone back to primary documents Shostakovich's many letters concert programs and reviews newspaper articles and diaries of his contemporaries An indefatigable worker he wrote his arresting music despite deprivations during the Nazi invasion and constant surveillance under Stalin's regime Shostakovich's life is a fascinating example of the paradoxes of living as an artist under totalitarian rule In August 1942 his Seventh Symp. Disclaimer I skim read most of the later chapters as I was mostly looking into t Refined Tastes surveillance under Stalin's regime Shostakovich's life is a fascinating example of the paradoxes of living as an artist under totalitarian rule In August 1942 his Seventh Symp. Disclaimer I Transforming Students skim read most of the later chapters as I was mostly looking into t

Laurel E. Fay Ú 0 REVIEW

Imes he balanced a career as a model Soviet holding government positions and acting as an international ambassador with his unflagging artistic ambitions In the years since his death in 1975 many have embraced a view of Shostakovich as a lifelong dissident who encoded anti Communist messages in his music This lucid and fascinating biography demonstrates that the reality was much complex Laurel Fay's book includes a detailed list of works a glossary of names and an extensive bibliography making it an indispensable resource for future studies of Shostakovic. This is the standard current biography of Dmitry Shostakovich and it's a good rea Gekka Mugentan, Vol. 4 since his death in 1975 many have embraced a view of Shostakovich as a lifelong dissident who encoded anti Communist messages in his music This lucid and fascinating biography demonstrates that the reality was much complex Laurel Fay's book includes a detailed list of works a glossary of names and an extensive bibliography making it an indispensable resource for future How to Fly with Broken Wings studies of Shostakovic. This is the Swimming to the Moon standard current biography of Dmitry Shostakovich and it's a good rea


10 thoughts on “Shostakovich A Life

  1. says:

    Disclaimer I skim read most of the later chapters as I was mostly looking into the reception of Shostakovich's War symphonies especially his Seventh the Leningrad and how the composer fell in and out of Party favour particularly during the Stalinist years Also the biography itself is not actually too long ending on p287 with the rest of the book taken up with notes the bibliography and a list of Shostakovich's workA straightforward and above all cautious bibliographical account of the famous Soviet composer's life a narrative of his life rather than an analysis into his music Fay is careful not to make any grand claims about Shostakovich's motivations or political leanings As she states in her introduction Writing about Shostakovich remains laced with political and moral subtexts At its most extreme it simply replaces one orthodoxy with another reversing the polarities of the old shopworn Soviet cliches the true believing Communist citizen composer is inverted into an eually unconvincing caricature of a lifelong closet dissident She is particularly scathing of Solomon Volkov's Testimony the so called authorised memoirs of Shostakovich which in fact appears not having read it in full myself to be highly embellished and provocative while offering little evidence on the authenticity of its claims This books attempts to add in some balance Indeed it is impossible to say both how different Shostakovich's life and career would have been and over how he felt about this personally had he not been under tremendous pressure from the Soviet state to conform both ideologically and aesthetically A solid read for those interested both in Shostakovich himself and importance of art and culture in the Soviet Union


  2. says:

    anyone else here listen too shostakovich?


  3. says:

    I’ve been wanting to read a biography of Shostakovich since reading Vollman’s ‘Europe Central’ I’m very glad to finally have gotten around to itWhat I find so fascinating about Shostakovich’s life is the opaue controversy around it Shostakovich was a composer whose work flirted with death yet he was also one who suffered countless humiliations in his avoiding being liuidated as a composer whose work was contrary to the party line Early in life he was criticized by party hardliners and even his own instructor and mentor Steinberg for his “wild” compositional style—the fact that his music would be seen as safe party functionary music a mere generation later is uite stunning Shostakovich’s life was much complicated than this game of patriot vs dissident as Fay shows The irony of a party functionary dying during the premiere of his post Stalinist 14th Symphony whose theme was “death” was one of those moments pregnant with meaningShostakivich was to an extent clearly patriotic in his intentions even if he felt from an early age that one’s ability to ”explain the difference from the sociological and economic standpoints between the work of Chopin and Liszt” was laughable He signed up twice and was twice denied to fight for the Soviet Union during WWII His patriotism notwithstanding his compositions were not supposed to be “close read” feeling that such an analytic approach only stifled creativity He was a composer whose inspiration often came to him in the form of a dream rather than commitment to the sonic realization of some sort of ideology As Fay writes“On the uestion of ideology in music he defined it not as the subject mater of a work but the expression of the composer’s attitude toward the subject”Yet Shostakovich was a composer who worked with severe limitations—those limitations ranged from working with a poem whose overt party sentiments he felt were irredeemable to limitations of style avoiding the charge which cast a shadow over his entire career “formalism” Shostakovich was clearly a composer of passion as his working style makes clear—“Late in life in response to a uestionnaire Shostakovich indicated that for him the compositional process always began with an instantaneous grasp of future work a vision of the whole He estimated that when engrossed in work—and with only lunch to distract him—he averaged twenty to thirty pages of score a day”The controversy around the 4th Symphony is an example of the ambiguity of Shostakovich’s own position towards his music—while admired in professional circles the work was dismissed having been withdrawn from premier at the time of composition as suffering from “grandiosomania”—yet in 1973 he would cite fear as the main reason for its withdrawalEven while struggling against the strictures of social realist style Shostakovich was also legitimately committed to providing a people’s art His work with the proletarian Leningrad TRAM theater is one such example of this At the same time he struggled to articulate his artistic vision for example in his early career under the scrutiny of proletarian arts organizations such as the Russian Association of Proletarian Writers That said Shostakovich was often out of step with popular taste even before e was popular—hearing about his early job as a silent movie theater pianist were pretty funny that the audience of one such film thought the pianist must’ve been drunk his interpretation of the film so provocativeShostakovich’s dual acknowledgement as a Soviet patriot and creative respect in the West made him an ideal spokesman for Soviet propaganda which unfortunately accelerated the idea of his being a traitor to the creative endeavor later on in life His being seen by a younger Brezhnevian generation as a capitulator to the Stalinist regime surely loomed largeIt is difficult to say exactly how Shostakovich’s work would’ve changed had he been free to write whatever he’d wanted He is uoted as saying“You ask if I would have been different without Party guidance? Yes almost certainly No doubt the line I was pursuing when I wrote the Fourth Symphony would hav been stronger and sharper in my work I would have displayed brilliance used sarcasm I could have revealed my ideas openly instead of having to resort to camouflage; I would have written pure music”But I think we should resist the temptation to read too deeply into this The work of Shostakovich’s that we have is his work regardless—his work is the product of a frightful moment in world history His navigation between the Scylla of formalism and the Charybdis of social realism is for me a part of the import of his workOverall I was left wanting details of his personal life but I think we must accept that these might not be readily available Given the circumstances I think that Fay does a great job of working in the details of his life around his public facing works—a great biography looking into the life of an artist whose work was often a matter of life and death One can claim his being dedicated to being a representative to the music of the Soviet Union almost as easily as his being a “dissident” a term which we are a bit too comfortable to ascribe to artists I think The artist of the West is almost always seen as a “dissident” of some sort even as their work is “legitimized” by a global art market undercutting the import of such artworks which often have pretensions to “social change” If we are tempted to judge Shostakovich for enduring his humiliations we should remember this—that the Western artist played with risk as a mere toy the stakes being their career or salability Shostakovich played with his life


  4. says:

    Fay attempts a strictly biological account of Shostakovich's life adding only a sprinkle of anecdote and a dash of testimony Her work is cautious at all points but I think this makes it an important contribution to the plethora of literature surrounding Shostakovich literature which tends to take one side or another in the ongoing debates Ultimately Fay's sentiments seem to seep through though especially at the end when she attributes a rise in popularity of Shostakovich's music not to his artistic merits but to a reaction against serialism and dodecaphony Or maybe she is just making an observation? I had to return this to the library or I would go back and reread this carefully Anyway this is a foundational work to read for those interested in Shostakovich


  5. says:

    'It was in response to these critics that Shostakovich blithely uipped in a letter on 24 February in what would prove to be prescience as ironic as it was naive Basically this is all boring All the same I hope that if RAPM didn't grind me into powder that the SSK Union of Soviet Composers will not succeed in doing so either''Maybe after Tale of a Priest is released I will be rebuked again by some musical critics for superficiality for mischievousness for the absence of the real human emotions that finally surfaced in my Lady Macbeth But what can be considered human emotions? Surely not only lyricism sadness tragedy? Doesn't laughter also have a claim to that lofty title? I want to fight for the legitimate right of laughter in serious music When a listener laughs loudly during my symphonic concert it doesn't shock me a bit on the contrary it pleases me''Shostakovich's appetite for music was voracious; many of those close to him observed that his need for the sustenance of composing playing and listening to music was on a par with his need for food When unable to attend live performances he followed musical broadcasts on the radio and he was uick to acuire a record player He socialized willingly He liked to drink with friends but his capacity for both was limited On occasion he would appear to withdraw into an inaccessible inner world''Reflecting an actuarial streak in his nature Shostakovich maintained a neat log of soccer scores inscribed in a notebook championship play arranged in pyramids for many years both before the war and after He used the same notebook to log the results of chess tournaments to inscribe his worklist by opus number and at least initially to catalogue the scores in his library''The event became indelibly etched in the memories of those who attended however not so much because of its musical uality or because of the impact of Shostakovich's original and profoundly disturbing musical treatment of the theme of death but because of an incident that took place during the performance As the fifth movement On the Watch was being played a man sitting near the front of the auditorium rose and noisily made his exit The composer had reuested the audience to be as uiet as possible because the performance was being taped so the highly disruptive behavior of Pavel Apostolov specialist in military music and longtime Communist Party functionary was interpreted by many as a deliberate act of protest It was only after the performance when the departing listeners saw the prostrate Apostolov being tended to by a doctor in the foyer that they realized he must have suffered a heart attack or a stroke It was generally presumed that he had expired on the spot or on the way to the hospital in light of the theme of the symphony and the tenor of Shostakovich's introductory remarks everyone was gripped by the mystical sense that some sort of divine retribution had been visited on one of the villians of the Soviet music community'


  6. says:

    Workmanlike to a fault but a reliable guide to a mythologized life is a reliable start to exploration


  7. says:

    The intersection of music and politics is never far from the surface as the life of Dmitri Dmitrievich Shostakovich informs us If anything the saga of John Adam's opera The Death of Klinghoffer foretell that political ripples if not outright censorship triggered by provocative operas is not uniue to Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District The life of DDS has been the subject of a cottage industry of revisionist histories A one time revolutionary composer was rendered a tortured dissident in hiding with the figure of Joseph Stalin casting a dark shadow on the composer's life and works In particular the book by Solomon Volkov Testimony purported to be the reminiscences of DDS late in his life as dictated to the author offered a highly embellished view of the composer that distorted in as much as it informed The biography of Laurel Fay does introduce some balance into this picture The composer emerges as a complex prodigy that was the product of his time and place as much as his own personal proclivities and aspirations Fay probes the different periods of DDS life including his early years in post revolutionary PetrogradLeningrad now back as St Petersburg The middle period under Stalin with the tumultuous events surrounding the great purges the composer's own Lady Macbeth and symphonies no 4 and 5 and his on off again denunciation and rehabilitation takes center stage in the narrative Fay does however cover in some details his late mature period which was one of musical rejuvenation with much fruitful experimentation with musical forms Symphonies no 13 14 concertos and sonatas song cycles film scores and so on His numerous civic and political engagements and artistic collaborations are well detailed This biography is not at heart a musical as much as a life's narrative although the musical oeuvres naturally provide the framework of the composer's life There have been criticisms of Fay's biography as being too dry I would like to think of it as a transitional biography that may yet be superseded by a encompassing if not definitive one For now it remains the best work on the life of DDS available in the English language Here is my favorite uote from Fay's biography which also encapsulates the paradox of a great artist at any time and place“In response to a plea in early 1941 from his colleague and friend the writer Marietta Shaginyan who was newly infatuated with the Piano uintet and its creator Mickhail Zoshchenko drafted for her a portrait of the Shostakovich he knew a deeply complex individualIt seemed to you that he is “frail fragile withdrawn an infinitely direct pure child” That is so But if it were only so then great art as with him would never be obtained He is exactly what you say he is plus something else — he is hard acid extremely intelligent strong perhaps despotic and not altogether good natured although cerebrally good naturedThat is the combination in which he must be seen And then it may be possible to understand his art to some degreeIn him there are great contradictions In him one uality obliterates the other It is conflict in the highest degree It is almost a catastrophe


  8. says:

    Truth?I chose to read this as a foil to Julian Barnes Noise of Time and it filled that function very well It is foremost a musical biography and the precise dating of works completion and premiere s is forward in Ms Fay's mind as is establishing the circumstances and character of their reception even or especially where there are disparate accounts For all you appreciate her thoroughness it can get a bit dry when lesser known or favoured pieces are being discussed On occasion the notes make up for textual rigour but all too few are the excursions into consideration of the composer's motivation or even political leanings These latter are highlights of the main text A reading of this biography will give the impression that Sh Led a charmed life up to Lady Macbeth whereafter he definitely suffered from the too many notes syndrome Though the charm outlived Stalin one wonders what the younger Sh would have produced had his facility for innovation not been compromised More Stravinsky than Schoenberg we must suppose while under liberal régimes the latter also found some favour with the Russian composer One to revisit with a stack of appropriate CDs under one arm


  9. says:

    This is the standard current biography of Dmitry Shostakovich and it's a good read too It's straightforward and concentrates mostly on biography instead of musical analysis I found Shostakovich and his life very interesting if rather saddening He didn't have a very happy life I think he never was able to escape from the long shadow of his experiences under Stalin's regime especially during the Terror and its purges It seemed as if Stalin and his regime were very much against Shostakovich but because of his stature as a composer instead of arresting him they sought to control him by subjecting him to series of minor persecutions while holding the threat of a larger one over his head I doubt he ever really got over the fear and anxiety of those yearsNow that I've read this book I think I shall embark on a thorough investigation of Shostakovich's music


  10. says:

    Not the most riveting storytelling but excellently researched and supported which is a bit of a luxury when dealing with a composer whose life is surrounded by as much myth and hearsay as good solid research I read it for a class and while it wasn't always the thing I was most excited to read it was never a bored to tears experience either


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