Shostakovich: A Life

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Overview

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 Symphony, 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 regimes 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 more 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 Shostakovich.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195134384
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 11/25/1999
  • Pages: 488
  • Lexile: 1540L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Laurel E. Fay is a widely published writer on Russian and Soviet music, who has been traveling to and studying in Russia since 1971. She lives in Staten Island, New York.

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 24, 2000

    Shostakovich: A Life

    This book reads like a mere fact finding report. The dry facts are interesting but there is little in this book which brings life to Shostakovich or his music. If one is interested in finding out about the ideas and influences that helped form the composer's style, this biography will be a disappointment. Shostakovich comes across as an artist who seeks to happily conform to all the dictates put upon him. This portrayal is unenhanced by any analytic help from the author, which is much needed. A quite different artist is portrayed here than in the controversial Testimony and in Elizabeth Wilson's more revealing biography / collected memoir.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 19, 2000

    Shostakovich: A Life

    This book reads like a mere fact finding report. The dry facts are interesting but there is little in this book which brings life to Shostakovich or his music. If one is interested in finding out about the ideas and influences that helped form the composer¿s style, this biography will be a disappointment. Shostakovich comes across as an artist who seeks to happily conform to all the dictates put upon him. This portrayal is unenhanced by any analytic help from the author, which is much needed. A quite different artist is portrayed here than in the controversial 'Testimony' and in Elizabeth Wilson¿s more revealing biography / collected memoir.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews

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