[Marxism] Interesting article on Shostakovich

hari.kumar at sympatico.ca hari.kumar at sympatico.ca
Sat Jul 22 18:55:56 MDT 2006

"Jacob Levich" writes:
"Whenever Shostakovich is performed, variations on this theme appear in the local press. . . .
Most of the stuff about Shostakovich as a sort of secret musical Solzhenitsyn is rooted in a 1975 "as told to" memoir, _Testimony_, published 
in the US by a Soviet defector named Solomon Volkov. ... The only problem is, Volkov's book is a crude forgery, as was demonstrated 
conclusively soon after its publication by musicologist Laurel Fay ...
A good place to go for background on this is _A Shostakovich Casebook_, edited by Malcom Brown."

Forgive my late entry on this.

However, I have been recently reading:
"A Soviet Credo: Shostakovich's Fourth Symphony" by Pauline Fairclough; Ashgate Publishing Co 2006; London. ISBN: 0 7546 5018 2.

This is a very good detailed analysis of Shostakovich, with regard to one specific allegation against "Stalinism". 
Namely - Shostakovich's hasty withdrawal of his 4th Symphony from a public hearing.  

The conventional wisdom is that this was done under pressure from J.V.Stalin's strictures. 

Fairclough shows a much more complex picture - where Shostakovich's struggle-fascination with Mahlerian forms. The conventional pictures of Shostakovich are not easily reconciled with her detailed analysis of the 4th. 

For instance:
"Although the scale and complexity of the 4th might have provoked accusations of formalism, in other repsects it was fulfilling current demands for a new type of Soviet symphonism..... Although there was no concensus at the conference (1935 symphonism conference-Ed) over the form the new symphonism should take (few composers would have welcomed such prescription), composers were called to the task of 'reflecting reality' and creating a new symphonic language"; p.32:
"What emerges is entirely compatible (not-Ed) only with Shostakovich's 4th symphony..." P.33
"As the 1935 discussion show, the 4th Symphony fulfilled many of the qualities judged desirable in a Soviet Symphony. It musical language was clear and expressive; it was not formulaic, dryly modernistic or academic; it did not use popular idioms trivially but in a highly suggestive and expressive way; it was tightly constructed, with the qualities of 'dialectical' process.. that Asafiev and others regarded as the essence of true symphonism, and it suggested 'content' without relying on a programme or sub-title." p. 233.

A disclaimer: 
I am not musically trained enough to have more than a smattering of music notation. 
So, I cannot myself follow nor critique adequately - Fairclough's detailed passage through quotation of the symphony. Some here undoubtedly can follow that textual quotation that Fairclough gives. 
HOwever - like the infamous philistine (or the sensible person) who proclaimed of an expensive 'artistic' (& expensive) pile of bricks at the Tate Gallery: "But I knows what I likes"...

The picture is certainly far more complex than one that is a convenient fit for those of Volkov's cloth.
Hari Kumar 


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