Music illuminates a person and provides him with his last hope; even Stalin, a butcher, knew that...' So said the Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich, who spent his life battling for the right to create his works under the Soviet Union's totalitarian regime. This proved dangerous under the autocratic Stalin, who perceived himself to be an erudite critic of modern culture. So when he stormed out of the performance of Shostakovich's opera 'Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk' in 1936, the composer feared he would be arrested and killed. Instead, the 'supreme leader' played a game of cat and mouse. He would attack Shostakovich in Pravda and ban his music from the airwaves. Then he would honour him with prestigious awards. Stalin's goal was to remain unpredictable, and thus afford Shostakovich no sense of personal security, although he continued to compose stirring symphonies that drew him millions of fans. This is a fascinating and important story told by one of the greatest authorities on Russian culture in the Soviet years.
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(234mm x 157mm x 22mm)
Little, Brown & Company
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
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UK Kirkus Review »
One of the greatest composers of the last century, Dmitri Shostakovich was one of many whose work was distorted by the Stalinist repression. His Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk was famously denounced as 'a profoundly inhumane work of art' and his work is even today exposed to controversy. Drawing on his interviews with the composer, as well as a wealth of formerly disclosed files, Solomon Volkov in this cultural history offers a unique account of Shostalkovich, revealing the composer's inner world and portraying him as a complex but courageous figure whose enigmatic persona is yet to be fully understood. Centering this accessibly written study on the peculiarly changing relationship between Shostakovich and Stalin, the author here also looks at the dictator's relationship with a number of leading creative figures of the day, providing a rare insight into the political and cultural circumstances of the Stalin era. (Kirkus UK)
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Author Biography - Solomon Volkov
Solomon Volkov worked with Shostakovich on his memoirs and collected letters and is an acknowledged expert on the composer.