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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Haaretz: Shostakovich's muse By Noam Ben Zeev

Published 02.04.07

Shostakovich's muse

In March 1953, a sigh of collective relief swept over the streets of the Soviet Union: Joseph Stalin was dead. Among the millions of people who felt that their lives were returned to them was the man who had been considered the Russian national composer until he fell out of favor with the regime, eight years earlier, Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975).

His Ninth Symphony, which he wrote to celebrate the USSR's victory in World War II, was radiant, full of life, almost "light," but it infuriated Stalin. The Party committees declared it to go against the will of the Soviet people, and denunciated the composer with the label that was a death sentence for any artist: "formalistic."

Shostakovich was boycotted. The eight years during which the commissions dried up and the performances of his work ceased, and in which he was dismissed from his position as professor of composition at the Moscow Conservatory, brought him to the brink of poverty and to thoughts of suicide. It seems that he was not immune to the curse: Beethoven had been the last to write nine symphonies, and in the 130 years since his death, no major composer had succeeded in completing a 10th one.

In December of 1953, however, the curse was lifted. The conservatory's huge Bolshoi Auditorium, sparkling with thousands of lights and overflowing with colorful bouquets, was packed with an audience that had come to celebrate the composer's return to his hometown, with his new symphony, his 10th. The enormous, excited crowd applauded the Leningrad Philharmonic, under the baton of one of the period's great conductors, Evgeny Mravinsky. And Shostakovich, bursting with pride, took his seat of honor…

[20070204 Shostakovichs muse By Noam Ben Zeev]

Haaretz: Shostakovich's muse By Noam Ben Zeev



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