Russian Cultural Studies: An Introduction

By David Shepherd; Catriona Kelly | Go to book overview

6
Soviet Music after the Death of Stalin: The Legacy of Shostakovich

GERARD MCBURNEY

Unquestionably the dominant figure in Soviet music from 1953 onwards was Dmitrii Shostakovich. Over the previous two decades, Sergei Prokof″ev had been the only creative personality comparable in range, technique, and achievement. But Prokof″evdied, by a curious irony, on the same day as Stalin. And although there were other composers such as Aram Khachaturian( 1903-78), Iurii Shaporin ( 1887-1966), and Boris Liatoshinskii( 1895-1968), who made their reputations before or during the Stalinist period and continued to write music thereafter, it was Shostakovichwho became the emblem of the Soviet composer.

Shostakovichdied in 1975, but nearly a quarter of a century later his reputation remains immense, and is still growing within his own country and abroad. The influence of his distinctive musical language and the perceived example of his life cast long shadows over the history of Soviet music, right up until the end of the Soviet Union; and even today he exerts a strong fascination for many Russian musicians, a fascination stimulated by much recently published material shedding new light on his character and private opinions. Shostakovich remains an artist who provokes interesting questions and in certain quarters scepticism. This is partly because, although his music gives obvious and compelling evidence of rare powers of invention, originality of construction, and profundity of thought, its appeal has been significantly enhanced by what some have considered its extramusical associations.

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