Academic journal article Notes

Shostakovich Studies 2

Academic journal article Notes

Shostakovich Studies 2

Article excerpt

Shostakovich Studies 2. Edited by Pauline Fairclough. (Cambridge Com - poser Studies.) Cambridge: Cam - bridge University Press, 2010. [xi, 323 p. ISBN 9780521111188. $90.] Music examples, illustrations, bibliography, index.

This symposium on Dmitri Shostakovich emerged from the 2006 Shostakovich Centenary Conference at the University of Bristol. It features a distinguished international group of scholars from the Russian Federation, Finland, the United States, and the United Kingdom. As Fairclough notes in her introduction, the essays in this collection reflect a growing sophistication among Shostakovich scholars, and a notable shift in tone from the notorious "Shosta kovich wars" of the 1990s (p. 1). Shostakovich research has blossomed in the past ten years. The result, as can be seen in this collection, is an increasingly nuanced and complex picture of the composer, his music and his cultural environment.

Looming over Shostakovich scholarship are Richard Taruskin's 1990s-era exhortations that researchers should beware of mythmaking assumptions that turn Shosta - kovich into a simple hero or villain, and avoid the "vile trivialization" that reduces his music to a single fixed meaning, particularly a biographical or political one (Tarus kin, Defining Russia Musically [Prince - ton: Princeton University Press, 1997]: 537-42). The positive results of Taruskin's urgings are on display here in articles and findings that never could have appeared in the 1990s.

Olga Digonskaya ("Mitya Shostakovich's First Opus: Dating the Scherzo, op. 1"), continuing her steady stream of archival discoveries, shows that the 15-year-old Shostakovich misdated this early work in order to smooth over a gap in his compositional productivity and present an impressive orchestral work written at the age of 13 as his first opus. Shostakovich's own works lists, she suggests wryly, should be used with caution as documentary evidence of his work habits, although they can serve as an invaluable source of information on his character and psychological traits (p. 72). Similarly, Levon Hakobian ("Shostakovich, Proletkul't and RAPM") argues that the composer's early connections with Soviet proletarian music organizations were more extensive than might be expected. Fair - clough ("Dolmatovskiy on Shostakovich: a Last Memoir") explores an "officially approved" poet's memoir of the composer. Yevgeny Dolmatovsky was a Soviet loyalist whose texts Shostakovich set in such "official" works as Song of the Forests (1949) and The Sun Shines Over Our Motherland (1952). Fairclough suggests that the reception of two less official-sounding Shostakovich- Dolmatovsky collaborations-the Four Songs on Texts of Ye. Dolmatovsky, op. 86 and Five Romances on Texts of Ye. Dolmatovsky, op. 98- has been prejudiced by our negative preconceptions of Dolmatovsky; after all, she notes, Shostakovich was also "officially approved" for most of his life (p. 249).

Also questioning our preconceptions, Simo Mikkonen argues that Western scholarship has overdramatized the 1936 Pravda denunciations of Shostakovich (" 'Muddle instead of Music' in 1936: Cataclysm of Musical Administration"). For Mikkonen, "a full and proper understanding of the proper relationship between music and the Soviet state in the 1930s is still lacking in Western scholarship" (p. 231). While Mikkonen is surely right to plead for more archival work and a less monolithic view of Soviet arts administration (p. 231), his conclusions seem at times to be overdrawn. Here, for example, he promises to "explain why [the January-February 1936 denunciations of Shostakovich in Pravda] were really written" (p. 231), claiming that the attacks "were never meant to cause him [Shosta - kovich] serious trouble" (p. 247). This strange assertion seems to promise archival evidence of official pre-publication discussions showing the strategies behind the Pravda denunciations. Instead of providing such direct evidence of intent, however, Mikkonen bases his claims on postpublication events: a larger campaign against formalism that evolved from the Pravda denunciations, and the 1936-39 power struggles between composers and the Committee on Artistic Affairs. …

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