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

By Larry Sitsky | Go to book overview

Part V

The Jewish School

The question of Jewish composers in the Soviet Union is a complex one. It encompasses at least two types of composer: one who is Jewish by birth, such as Feinberg, whose output shows no connection with Judeo-Hebraic culture; and the other type, like Aleksandr Krein and Aleksandr Veprik, whose music shows signs of having availed itself of their rich sacred and secular traditions. The position of Jews in the Soviet Union has always been a difficult one in that, unlike other ethnic minorities, Jewish culture has never received official backing, except in the 1920s, nor have the Jews had land allocated to them, apart from the disastrous Birobidzhan experiment. It would probably be fair to say that, the 1920s apart, Jews have suffered from anti-Semitism in both Tsarist and Soviet Russia. For example, the five-volume History of the Music of the Peoples of the USSR gives information on very small ethnic minorities, while the Jews, numbering around three million, are ignored. After the late 1930s, mention of Jewish music disappears from Soviet reference books altogether. It is significant that the 1932 edition of the Great Soviet Encyclopedia devoted eighty-two pages to Jews; the 1952 edition has one page! In the bibliography to that meager article is a classic anti-Semitic text from Germany.

Yet, just prior to the Revolution, Jewish music and musicians in Russia were experiencing a nationalist boom. Figures such as Rimsky-Korsakov and Stasov were actively encouraging the establishment of such a school. Rimsky-Korsakov is quoted as saying (while listening to "A Romance on a Jewish Tune" by his pupil E. Shklyar ), "Why should you Jewish students imitate European and Russian composers? The Jews possess tremendous folk treasuries. . .. Jewish music awaits its Glinka." In general, both the Tsarist and Soviet authorities were not too happy about this development, and gave grudging permission for the folk side of Jewish culture to be established, rather than an openly Jewish nationalist compositional movement. Paradoxically, the number of Jewish performers within Russian culture was huge, and included many world-famous names. The only two pianists that Lenin heard after the Revolution were Jewish: Feinberg and Dobroven. Of course, many of the foundation Bolsheviks were Jews. But quite a few Jews were suspicious of the Bolshevik Revolution, and, in common with many other artists, left the country.

During the 1920s, a Jewish nationalist school was encouraged. One only has to look at reference entries on composers such as Mikhail Gnessin to witness the changing

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

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface ix
  • Abbreviations xiii
  • Acknowledgments xv
  • 1 1
  • Bibliography 7
  • Part I - The Precursors 10
  • 2 - Vladimir I. Rebikov: The Inventor of Whole-Tone Music 10
  • Bibliography 25
  • 3: Aleksei V. Stanchinskiy 27
  • Part II - The Big Three 38
  • 4 - Nikolai A. Roslavets: The Russian Schoenberg 38
  • Bibliography 58
  • 5: Aleksandr V. Mosolov 60
  • 6: Arthur V. Lourié 87
  • Part III - The Smaller Five 111
  • 7 - Leonid A. Polovinkin: The Partial Avant-Gardist 111
  • Bibliography 132
  • 8 - Vladimir V. Shcherbachev: Old Wine in New Vessels 133
  • 9: Lev K. Knipper 149
  • 10: Boris N. Liatoshinski 158
  • 11 - Vladimir M. Deshevov: The Man of the Theater 171
  • Part IV - The Reluctant Avant-Gardists 183
  • 12 - Samuil E. Feinberg: The Post-Scriabin Pianist 183
  • Bibliography 198
  • 13: Anatoliy N. Aleksandrov 199
  • 14 - Boris A. Aleksandrov: Son of the Composer of the Soviet Anthem 216
  • Part V 217
  • 15: Aleksandr A. Krein 219
  • 16 - Grigoriy A. Krein: Toward Assimilation 225
  • Bibliography 229
  • 17 - Yulian G. Krein: Precocious Cosmopolitan 235
  • 18 - The Ukrainian Bartók and Bloch 241
  • 19: Mikhail F. Gnessin 242
  • Part VI 248
  • 20 248
  • 21: Nikolai Obukhov 254
  • 22: Iosif M. Schillinger 264
  • 23: Aleksandr N. Tcherepnine 273
  • Part VII 283
  • 24 283
  • 25: Leonid L. Sabaneev 291
  • 26 - Dmitriy M. Melkikh: Rhapsodist 309
  • 27: Gavrill N. Popov 310
  • 28: Aleksei S. Zhivotov 318
  • 29: Efim Golyshchev 323
  • 30 - Georgi M. Rimsky-Korsakov: Microtonist 328
  • Appendix: Further Scores for Study and Reference 329
  • Index 343
  • About the Author 349
  • Recent Titles in Contributions to the Study of Music and Dance 351
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