Music of the Repressed Russian Avant-Garde, 1900-1929

By Larry Sitsky | Go to book overview

Preface

Soviet and Russian music of the first third of our century -- with the exception of the music of a few high-profile composers who were officially sponsored by the State -- is still largely unexplored territory, known only to a few specialists. Nevertheless, the music has considerable intrinsic value well beyond its curiosity appeal, and includes many pieces unaccountably forgotten and certainly worth reviving, to the ultimate enhancement of the concert repertoire. The study of this music also explains much about the foundations of Soviet culture and its subsequent suppression and decline under the Stalinist yoke. The purpose of this book is to stimulate interest in this little-known area of Russian/Soviet music. The book provides information about composers and repertoire that, until now, was not readily available. It is my fervent desire to reach the widest possible circle of musicians and music lovers, so that this fascinating music, suppressed and written out of or dismissed from the history books by Soviet authorities, can finally be reinstated to its rightful place in the mainstream of music.

Since many of these scores are at the moment very difficult to find, I have been fairly lavish in the use of musical examples. It is my view, anyway, that a few bars of music by a composer speak far more loudly and eloquently than pages of descriptive or analytic text. The latter can and should support the music itself, which is always central. Otherwise, we have the equivalent of a children's book without pictures.

The period in question was one of experimentation and discovery. Various tendencies are apparent, sometimes within one work. Debts and gestures from the past mix freely with new ideas. Thus, many of the works are veritable mine fields for the analyst; indeed, the more elaborate works can probably be made to demonstrate whatever the analyst desires. I have resisted the temptation to provide long, verbose, and boring dissections, being more interested in general concepts (it didn't take much willpower). My personal orientation as pianist and composer has no doubt colored the choice of examples. However, the fact is that these composers often used the piano as the direct vehicle for their experimentation (most of them were pianists to begin with), and so the literature for the instrument was greatly enriched. I hope that my fellow pianists will be interested in what they discover in these pages.

The fate of the composer Aleksandr Scriabin in Russia has much bearing on this

-ix-

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