Composers of Today: A Comprehensive Biographical and Critical Guide to Modern Composers of All Nations

By David Ewen | Go to book overview
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in Russia today; but we hear him in the same spirit as we go to a museum to study the forms of the old regime. We can learn certain technical lessons from him, but we do not accept him."We, as revolutionists, have a different conception of music. Lenin himself said that 'music is a means of unifying broad masses of people.' Not a leader of masses, perhaps, but certainly an organizing force! For music has the power of stirring specific emotions in those who listen to it. Good music lifts and heartens and lightens people for work and effort. It may be tragic but it must be strong. It is no longer an end in itself, but a vital weapon in the struggle. . . ."In describing Shostakowitch's style, Belaiev says that it is "the negation of thematic development and consists in the systematic adoption of a method which is the converse of Liszt's 'transformation of themes.' Shostakowitch not only refrains in general from repeating a theme in its original or in a transformed version--the accepted custom with symphonic-composers--but in writing a theme, he avoids the repetition of identical motifs and melodic turns of phrases. One gets the impression that he wants every bar of his composition to be different from the rest. He applies this method to the distribution of the parts, striving to attain a completely independent design for each of the orchestral parts of the score." Shostakowitch's works are not many in number, but each is remarkable for its sureness and solidity, and its consistently high level of inspiration. His latest work--an opera, Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, performed in Russia during the Spring of 1934--seems to denote rather strongly that there is no retrogression in his march towards greatness. "This work" writes one critic, Patrick Hughes, "is certainly the finest post- revolutionary Russian opera. I am inclined to think that it is second only to Wozzeck, as being the best opera of the post-war era. . . . Shostakowitch has a rare sense of the theater. He has that peculiarly Russian gift of creating an atmosphere with a very few bars. . . . Lady Macbeth contains much good music, even a few passages of such surprising maturity that one is almost tempted to call them great. Certainly only the last scene in Wozzeck, among recent musical works, is as effective as the last scene of this Soviet piece." Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk was introduced in America in Cleveland on January 31, 1935 under the baton of Artur Rodzinski, and shortly after that performed at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.Principal works by Dmitri Shostakowitch:
OPERA: The Nose; Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk.
ORCHESTRA: First Symphony; October Symphony; May-Day Symphony; Concerto for Piano and Orchestra.
CHAMBER Music: Two Pieces for String Octet.
BALLET: The Golden Age; The Bolt.
About Dmitri Shostakowich:
Sabaneyev Leonid. Modern Russian Composers.
Musical Courier 109:10 July 14, 1934; New York Times December 5, 1931.
Important recordings of music by Dmitri Shostakowich:
VICTOR: First Symphony (Stokowski).
PATHE: The Golden Age.

Jean Sibelius 1865-

"I am convinced that he will ultimately prove to have been not only the greatest of his generation, but one of the major figures in the entire history of music." --CECIL GRAY

JEAN JULIUS CHRISTIAN SIBELIUS, the greatest composer of present-day Scandinavia and one of the great figures in the music of our times, was born in a small town in the interior of Finland, Tavastehus, where his father was a regimental doctor, on December 8, 1865. From a very early age he revealed the fact that a great talent for music was born with him. As a mere boy, he could improvise upon the piano with a neat imagination, and he could compose pieces for solo instruments with a tasteful pen. In his fifteenth year, he began to take violin lessons from the military bandmaster of the town, and succeeded in gaining quite a technical equipment with the instru

____________________
Sibelius: sī-bāl'yūs

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