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eBook Shostakovich: A Life Remembered ePub

by Elizabeth Wilson

eBook Shostakovich: A Life Remembered ePub
Author: Elizabeth Wilson
Language: English
ISBN: 0571220509
ISBN13: 978-0571220502
Publisher: Princeton Univ Pr; Rev Ed edition (2006)
Pages: 560
Category: Arts & Literature
Subcategory: Biography
Rating: 4.2
Votes: 478
Formats: docx mbr lrf lit
ePub file: 1569 kb
Fb2 file: 1422 kb

Elizabeth Wilson’s Shostakovich: A Life Remembered presents him as he was seen and remembered by his friends and colleagues. Some of their reminiscences had already been published, and some were written at Wilson’s invitation for this book.

Elizabeth Wilson’s Shostakovich: A Life Remembered presents him as he was seen and remembered by his friends and colleagues. Fluent in Russian and a musician herself-she studied in Moscow with Mstislav Rostropovich, the cellist, one-time student, and close friend of Shostakovich’s-she was especially qualified to both evaluate the published reminiscences and draw out new material from those who knew him.

Shostakovich: A Life Remembered

Shostakovich: A Life Remembered. by. Elizabeth Wilson. Shostakovich: A Life Remembered is a unique study of the great composer Dmitri Shostakovich, based on reminiscences from his contemporaries: family members, friends, fellow musicians and other prominent figures of the time.

Shostakovich: A Life Remembered Format: Hardcover Authors: Elizabeth Wilson ISBN10 . Elizabeth Wilson's biography of Shostakovich is a brilliant and convincing portrait of the Soviet-era composer

Shostakovich: A Life Remembered Format: Hardcover Authors: Elizabeth Wilson ISBN10: 0691029717 Published: 1994-08-14 Shostakovich: A Life Remembered. Princeton University Press. Number of Pages Elizabeth Wilson's biography of Shostakovich is a brilliant and convincing portrait of the Soviet-era composer. Based on letters, diaries, and interviews with and of his contemporaries, Wilson weaves together a sort of 'external/internal' picture of Shostakovich that is credible because it stems from the people who knew him and, to whatever extent, understood him.

Shostakovich: A Life Remembered is a unique study of the great composer, drawn from the reminiscences and reflections of his contemporaries. Elizabeth Wilson sheds light on the composer's creative process and his working life in music, and examines the enormous and enduring influence that Shostakovich has had on Soviet musical life. The one indispensable book about the composer.

THIS large book about Dmitri Shostakovich evades the usual challenge to authors of biography, since it is not 'by' Elizabeth Wilson, but is a 'life remembered' by relatives, friends, lovers, wives, acquaintances an. .

THIS large book about Dmitri Shostakovich evades the usual challenge to authors of biography, since it is not 'by' Elizabeth Wilson, but is a 'life remembered' by relatives, friends, lovers, wives, acquaintances and professional colleagues, in the early years mostly Russian, but increasingly scattered, as the composer's fame burgeoned, around the world

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Shostakovich: A Life Remembered is a unique study of the great composer Dmitri Shostakovich, based on reminiscences from his contemporaries: family members, friends, fellow musicians and other prominent figures of the time. Elizabeth Wilson covers the composer's life from his early successes to his struggles under the Stalinist regime, and his international recognition as one of the leading composers of the 20th century.

A detailed portrait of the Russian composer, Dmitri Shostakovich, presented through the memories of those who knew and worked with him. The author - a cellist, broadcaster and writer - draws extensively upon interviews which she conducted in the Soviet Union with his contemporaries.
Marilbine
Perhaps more than with any other 20th century composer, an interest in Shostakovich’s music leads inevitably to an interest in his life. A brilliant and prolific composer, he wrote in a wide variety of genres—not only symphonies, concertos, string quartets and sonatas, but also film scores, operas, song cycles, and even an operetta (although he called it a musical comedy)—in styles that ranged from the intensely personal to the broadly entertaining, and that celebrated the USSR’s achievements, satirized its bureaucracy, and cried out its moral failings.

And he did so during a time of enormous social, economic and political changes. Born in 1906 to poor parents, he fought a life-long battle with ill health, and struggled to support an extended family. He lived through the Russian Revolution, World War II—including the Siege of Leningrad—and Stalin’s Reign of Terror. His work was often censured by the Soviet musical establishment, and he fought against state censorship to have his work performed. Sometimes, out of caution, the censorship was self-imposed; his 4th Symphony, written in 1936, was not performed until 1961. Yet when he died, in 1975, of lung cancer, he was given a state funeral and buried in Moscow’s Novodevichii cemetery, final resting place of such other Russian cultural titans as Tolstoy, Chekov, Gogol and Prokofiev.

Elizabeth Wilson’s “Shostakovich: A Life Remembered” presents him as he was seen and remembered by his friends and colleagues. Some of their reminiscences had already been published, and some were written at Wilson’s invitation for this book. Fluent in Russian and a musician herself—she studied in Moscow with Mstislav Rostropovich, the cellist, one-time student, and close friend of Shostakovich’s—she was especially qualified to both evaluate the published reminiscences and draw out new material from those who knew him.

The result is a biography that allows other people to talk extensively about Shostakovich, while Wilson, who selected all the material, provides the narrative thread that puts the remembrances in context. Because so much of the book comprises quotations from her sources, the publisher used type of two different sizes to distinguish visually between Wilson's narrative and her sources, with Wilson’s narrative in the smaller of the two. I found this a little disorienting at first, but quickly got used to it.

In any case, the multitude of voices provides a richness and texture lacking in traditional biographies. Occasionally Shostakovich himself is quoted, but mostly we see him through the eyes of others. That they sometimes contradict each other, and often portray themselves and events more subjectively than a neutral observer might, isn’t quite beside the point, but it isn’t a flaw, either. People are complex. Shostakovich certainly was, and so were his friends. There are other biographies that claim to present a more “objective” view of Shostakovich’s life, and they are certainly worth reading. But for its ability to portray the immediacy and flavor of an immensely creative life lived among the artists and intellegentsia of 20th century Russia, Wilson’s is the indispensable one.
I'm a Russian Occupant
This really is the best available all round biography of DSCH currently available, IMHO.

Wilson's approach is meticulous, judicious and comprehensive - with the result that the whole is extremely readable, as narrative and annotated reference.

She manages to convey the enigma of Shostakovich as 'fragile' (in terms of health and sensitivity) and perceptive and almost precociously able in the extreme.

My only query - anyone else, please - is about one aspect of the type: the long quoted passages are sometimes set in a smaller font than Wilson's own text (which is the expected convention, of course); and sometimes larger (which can catch one off guard). Is this a known oversight with the printing… I have the second edition (2006) copy?

TIA to anyone who can comment or explain.
Steamy Ibis
For anyone interested in Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) the man and his music, *Shostakovich: A Life Remembered (Second Edition)* is a compelling book. In a carefully researched and organized work, cellist and author Elizabeth Wilson presents a biography of Shostakovich comprising collated reminiscences and value judgments of his contemporaries that form the bulk of 537 pages of main text, along with her own input and documentary evidence where available. The prevailing political and cultural environment of the Soviet Union at the time looms large in the background. So many names familiar and unfamiliar appear throughout the text, that 30 pages of Biographical Notes come in handy for identification and as reminders of who's who in the world of Shostakovich. The detailed Index will prove useful to the serious reader of such a large, wide-ranging book. The Acknowledgements and the Annotated List of Sources give an idea of the vast amount of study, consultation and interviews carried out by Wilson mostly in Russia, but also Switzerland, Germany, UK and USA, in what must be termed a labor of love.

His parents wanted to name him Jaroslav, but the priest who baptized him insisted on Dmitri. So begins the story of the boy prodigy, who matured into one of the most significant composers of the twentieth century. Testimonies by more than 60 contributors authenticate some of Shostakovich's personal attributes, details of his life, and the way he went about composing music under often taxing circumstances and the shadow of a political system that sought to regulate the arts -- indeed all aspects of life -- to conform to "socialist reality."

Almost from the start, the young Dmitri (Mitya to his friends) did not have an easy life; but he was highly disciplined and determined to succeed. Perfect pitch and a phenomenal memory helped to distinguish him among his fellow students at the Petrograd (Leningrad) Conservatoire. His graduation piece, the First Symphony, brought him quick fame. Already he was demonstrating an independent bent of mind and going his own way in music, to the displeasure of the Soviet authorities who eventually subjected him to harassment and humiliation. Shostakovich's sharp contradictions of character affected his behavior. He had a sense of humor and high spirits; he loved his vodka, card games -- a "poker fiend" according to one friend -- and football (soccer); yet pianist Mikhail Druskin says, "It was Shostakovich's vocation to realize the concept of tragedy, for that was how he perceived the world." His paradoxical character became painfully obvious when he joined the Communist Party in 1960, even as he detested what the system stood for and opposed it in his music. Worse yet, occasionally he appeared to be supporting official policies. In the words of soprano Galina Vishnevskaya (wife of cellist Mstislav Rostropovich), "He [Shostakovich] felt we were all participants in the farce. ... He made statements in the press and at meetings; he signed 'letters of protest' that, as he himself said, he never read. He didn't worry about what people would say of him, because he knew the time would come when the verbiage would fade away, when only his music would remain. And his music would speak more vividly than any words." It's also true that, living in fear of the authorities, he was not one to say no under pressure.

Accounts of the war on "formalism" during Stalin's regime provide real drama. According to doctrinaire officials, notably Andrei Zhdanov (infamous for his role in the 1946-1948 campaign of terror against the intelligentsia), Soviet realism dictated that music should be tuneful, uplifting, and meaningful to the masses. In their view, abstract or Western-influenced "modern" music was not. Tragic music was pessimism, not in the spirit of the Nation. The consequences on formalist composers (as they called them), prominent among them being Shostakovich and Prokofiev, were grave. They lost their main means of livelihood and many of their works were no longer performed. Rostropovich relates that the time came when Prokofiev did not have money left to buy breakfast. Actually, Shostakovich fell from grace earlier, when his opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk District was viciously attacked by Pravda as chaos. After that, he found it prudent to suppress his innovative Fourth Symphony and several other works until after Stalin died. The Fifth Symphony, wildly acclaimed by the public, won official if somewhat grudging acceptance. The war years offered him the opportunity to write the Seventh Symphony, on which he started working during the German siege of Leningrad. The response to it was universally electric. Luckily for him, the authorities did not suspect that Shostakovich intended the music to signify the ultimate defeat not only of fascism but of all forms of tyranny, by implication including Stalinism. For now, Shostakovich was a hero again. Yet when he wrote the Eighth Symphony, a tragic masterpiece portraying the horror of war, the authorities predictably criticized it; it was not the heroic, victorious music they expected. Shostakovich had an acerbic comment to depict the system: "Our duty is to rejoice!"

Of course, the book has more to say about the music of Shostakovich, much of which I listen to and esteem. A good part of the material covers the circumstances of the composition, rehearsals and premieres of major works, where fascinating insights into the ways and genius of the composer emerge. In a few cases Wilson includes a description of the music and some issues of interpretation. Of special interest to me are accounts of some of his splendid string quartets, where Shostakovich was at his most personal. Here and there we get a glimpse that tells us something of his attitude toward music. One of the best concerns a passage in his score for the film King Lear: "There may be few notes," he said, "but there's lots of music."

Toward the end, the seriously ill Shostakovich was preoccupied with themes of death and parting, as in the Fourteenth Symphony and the late string quartets. His last work was the Viola Sonata opus 147, of which Wilson writes, "The Viola Sonata can be regarded as a fitting requiem for a man who had lived through and chronicled the scourges of a cruel age." In and out of treatment clinics for years, his failing health finally denied him reprieve. He died in hospital on 9 August, 1975. The book ends bleakly with an extract from the diary of violinist Mark Lubotsky, describing the burial: "Hammers banged. They were nailing down the lid of the coffin. Then they moved. Then they stopped. The Soviet anthem was played. It was cold and it started to drizzle."

Why did Wilson use this ending? A few pages before, she supplies what I think would stand as a more optimistic conclusion to the book: "Undoubtedly, as the debates and arguments recede into the mists of time, the single greatest testament to Shostakovich's indomitable spirit and powers of mental discipline will remain the body of music." Very much as Shostakovich had hoped.
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