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

By Larry Sitsky | Go to book overview
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treme attitudes and what now seems quaint phraseology -- is to miss the point that the struggle was almost literally a life and death one; artistically, it was certainly life and death.

By 1929, NEP was dead, and the views of RAPM were closer to the official line than its competitor, with its decadent infusion of Western ideas, contaminated by capitalism. The ACM journal Contemporary Music was closed down in March 1929. Coincidentally, attacks on the establishment composer, Dmitri Shostakovich, increased. His period of writing aggressively modern works (such as the first Piano Sonata, the second and third Symphonies, the piano cycle, "Aphorisms," the opera, "The Nose") was over. Henceforth, Shostakovich had to face the occasional public humiliation and justification of his existence before various official bodies, and lead his extraordinary life of dichotomy. Prokofiev solved the problem more elegantly by spending most of his life abroad.

By September of 1929, RAPP was declared the official body to push the Party line. All rival organizations were wound up, and journals shut down. Lunacharsky was sacked. ACM ceased to exist in 1931, but it had been emasculated well before that date. The individual destinies of the progressive composers will be found in separate chapters; suffice it to say here that they were effectively silenced. Even the popularity of Western jazz was declared antirevolutionary. The dark ages of the cultural revolution had begun. Prokofiev, in Russia at this time for the premiere of "Le Pas d'acier," was labelled a dilettante! Ironically, in 1932, RAPM was also abolished. In a resolution published by the Central Committee of the Communist Party, all arts were unionized ( April 23, 1932); members of RAPM and RAPP were suddenly denounced and hounded out of office. They had served their political purpose. The Union of Composers was created. The cultural revolution was over, but an era of new repression, covert rather than overt, subtle rather than obvious, had begun, and was to last well after the death of Stalin. B. Schwarz excellent text Music and Musical Life in Soviet Russia 1917-1970 gives a detailed account of the turbulent ideological and political struggles of the times.



Yavorsky B. Y.: Stroenie muzykal'noy rechi. Moscow, 1908.

Pougin A.: A Short History of Russian Music. London, 1915.

Montagu-Nathan M.: Contemporary Russian Composers. London, 1917.

Montagu-Nathan M.: A History of Russian Music. London, 1918.

Bol'shaya sovetskaya entsiklopediya. Moscow, 1926/ 1951.

Sabaneev Leonid: Modern Russian Composers. London, 1927.

Asafiev B.: Kniga o Stravinskom. Leningrad, 1928.

Asafiev B.: Muzykal'naya forma kak protsess. 2 vols. Moscow, 1930, 1947.

Asafiev B. V.: Russian Music from the Beginning of the Nineteenth Century (written in 1928, published in 1939, English translation by Alfred J. Swan, 1953, Ann Arbor, Michigan).

Freeman J., J. Kunitz, and L. Lozowick: Voices of October: Art and Literature in Soviet Russia. New York, 1930.

Vodarsky-Shiraeff Alexandria: Russian Composers and Musicians: a Biographical Dictionary. New York, 1940.

Moisenko Rena: Twenty Soviet Composers. 1942.

Boelza Igor: Handbook of Soviet Musicians. London, 1943.

Abraham Gerald: Eight Soviet Composers. London, 1943.

Calvocoressi M. D.: A Survey of Russian Music. Middlesex, 1944.


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