Shostakovich and His World

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Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) has a reputation as one of the leading composers of the twentieth century. But the story of his controversial role in history is still being told, and his full measure as a musician still being taken. This collection of essays goes far in expanding the traditional purview of Shostakovich's world, exploring the composer's creativity and art in terms of the expectations—historical, cultural, and political—that forged them.

The collection contains documents that appear for the first time in English. Letters that young "Miti" wrote to his mother offer a glimpse into his dreams and ambitions at the outset of his career. Shostakovich's answers to a 1927 questionnaire reveal much about his formative tastes in the arts and the way he experienced the creative process. His previously unknown letters to Stalin shed new light on Shostakovich's position within the Soviet artistic elite.

The essays delve into neglected aspects of Shostakovich's formidable legacy. Simon Morrison provides an in-depth examination of the choreography, costumes, décor, and music of his ballet The Bolt and Gerard McBurney of the musical references, parodies, and quotations in his operetta Moscow, Cheryomushki. David Fanning looks at Shostakovich's activities as a pedagogue and the mark they left on his students' and his own music. Peter J. Schmelz explores the composer's late-period adoption of twelve-tone writing in the context of the distinctively "Soviet" practice of serialism. Other contributors include Caryl Emerson, Christopher H. Gibbs, Levon Hakobian, Leonid Maximenkov, and Rosa Sadykhova. In a provocative concluding essay, Leon Botstein reflects on the different ways listeners approach the music of Shostakovich.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"An important contribution to the discussion on Shostakovich."—Library Journal
Library Journal
One of the greatest composers of the last century and also one of the most controversial, Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-75) remained a dutiful representative of the official Soviet state during his lifetime, despite some criticism from Communist authorities. Here, Fay (Shostakovich: A Life) generally steers clear of the most controversial elements of his legacy. The book consists of two parts, documents and essays. Documents include Shostakovich's letters to his mother, his response to a questionnaire on the psychology of the creative process, and his letters to Stalin (distressingly servile in tone). The essays explore the more obscure facets of Shostakovich's genius, e.g., his record as a teacher and his use of the Russian literary tradition. The most direct treatment of Shostakovich's controversial status is Leon Botstein's essay, "Listening to Shostakovich," which thoughtfully explores how Shostakovich's music has been seen both as Soviet propaganda and as coded dissident speech and suggests that listeners today may hear, instead of Cold War echoes, the "moral ambiguities of ordinary life." An important contribution to the discussion on Shostakovich, recommended for all libraries. Bruce R. Scheuneman, Texas A&M Univ. Lib., Kingsville Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691120690
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 7/26/2004
  • Series: Bard Music Festival Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 432
  • Product dimensions: 6.32 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.02 (d)

Meet the Author

Laurel E. Fay is an independent scholar and author of "Shostakovich: A Life", which won the 2001 Otto Kinkeldey Award of the American Musicological Society. She has written and lectured extensively on Russian and Soviet music.
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Table of Contents

Shostakovich : letters to his mother, 1923-1927 1
Introduced, and with commentary
Responses of Shostakovich to a questionnaire on the psychology of the creative process 27
Stalin and Shostakovich : letters to a "friend" 43
"The phenomenon of the seventh" : a documentary essay on Shostakovich's "war" symphony 59
Shostakovich as industrial Saboteur : observations on The Bolt 117
The nose and the fourteenth symphony : an affinity of opposites 163
Shostakovich and the Russian literary tradition 183
Fried chicken in the bird-cherry trees 227
Shostakovich and his pupils 275
Shostakovich's "twelve-tone" compositions and the politics and practice of Soviet serialism 303
Listening to Shostakovich 355
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