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By Wendy Lesser

ISBN-10: 0300169337

ISBN-13: 9780300169331

Most earlier books approximately Dmitri Shostakovich have desirous about both his symphonies and operas, or his dating to the regime below which he lived, or either, when you consider that those large-scale works have been those that attracted the curiosity and infrequently the condemnation of the Soviet gurus. Music for Silenced Voices seems to be at Shostakovich throughout the again door, because it have been, of his fifteen quartets, the works which his widow characterised as a "diary, the tale of his soul." The silences and the voices have been of many types, together with the political silencing of adventurous writers, artists, and musicians in the course of the Stalin period; the misplaced voices of Shostakovich's operas (a shape he deserted in advance of turning to thread quartets); and the death-silenced voices of his shut associates, to whom he devoted lots of those chamber works.

Wendy Lesser has built a desirable narrative within which the fifteen quartets, thought of separately in chronological order, lead the reader in the course of the own, political, occasions that formed Shostakovich's singular, emblematic twentieth-century lifestyles. Weaving jointly interviews with the composer's acquaintances, family members, and co-workers, in addition to conversations with present-day musicians who've performed the quartets, Lesser sheds new mild at the guy and the musician. one of many only a few books approximately Shostakovich that's aimed toward a basic instead of an educational viewers, Music for Silenced Voices is a excitement to learn; whilst, it's carefully devoted to the identified evidence during this notoriously complex existence. it's going to fill readers with the need to listen to the quartets, that are one of the so much compelling and emotionally strong monuments of the previous century's track.

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At first there was some attempt by a couple of Elegy 29 Party nudniks to get the Leningrad premiere declared a fake victory, on the grounds that the applause was engineered by a proShostakovich claque brought in from Moscow. But this demonstrably false rumor failed to take root, and in the end the positive reviews began to appear. The Symphony No. 5 in D Minor was declared a triumph of Socialist Realism, written in a vein that everyone in the Soviet Union could appreciate, with a clear narrative line showing the “formation of a personality”; and Shostakovich, in turn, was restored to his stature as a highly respected, politically approved composer.

Flora Litvinova, who met Shostakovich during the Sec- Elegy 17 ond World War and remained friendly with him for decades, at one point tried to explain what she saw as his unusual degree of fearfulness and anxiety. “Where this fear sprang from originally I don’t know,” she said. “Once he spoke about the despair he experienced after his father’s death, when he suddenly found himself alone in a hostile world. ” And it is true that Shostakovich did eventually have to take a job, as a piano player in three successive silent-movie houses on nearby Nevsky Prospect.

And even then, the brightness and joy were not immediately apparent. ❖ ❖ ❖ The String Quartet No. 1 in C Major—that simplest, most unadorned of keys, which uses only the piano’s white notes—starts with a slow-paced Moderato movement that is quiet, diffident, almost fearful in its tentativeness. The diffidence is not just that of a composer new to a form; melodically and rhythmically, this whole movement evokes a sense of shyness, novelty, and hesitant emergence, like that of a solitary child exploring a strange, new place.

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Music for Silenced Voices: Shostakovich and His Fifteen Quartets by Wendy Lesser


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