Saturday, July 15, 2006

Shostakovich? Enough. Please.

I am sick of Shostakovich. I understand that some composers become causes celebre, and that Mahler would be an obscure Austro-Hungarian composer (and more famous as a conductor) had he not been taken up as such a cause. However, this stupid Shostakovich mania is tiring, grating, and a little passe. This article, from the Guardian about Tikhon Khrennikov (Stalin's music commissar), shows how any discussion of music in Stalin's Soviet Union has to center on Shostakovich and his struggles. Pierre Boulez hit it best when he said, I think, of Shostakovich "third-pressing Mahler."

I, for one, don't give a damn about Shostakovich. I would be more interested in how Khrennikov's "socialist realism" program was directed by Stalin. He certainly imposed that critical theory on the writers through Gorky and through direct contact. The Stalinist centralization of arts control is far more interesting than the story of a third-rate composer who got some tough breaks and might have been autobiographical in his compositions.

The shame of Shostakovich is that for each of his drecky works that gets into the repertoire, a truly great work, like Franz Schmidt's Das Buch mit sieben Siegeln, has to get left out of it.


At 10:23 PM, Blogger Henry Holland said...

Hi, I found your blog via AC Douglas'.

YES! Finally, somebody wrote what me and my friend Patrick have been saying for a decade about Shostakovich. As Patrick said to someone at a party we were at who was rhapsodizing about Shostakovich "If you took away all the Stalin and Soviet Union stuff, nobody would care about his trashy music".

I suspect you'll burn in hell for your heresy, but thanks for writing it anyway! :-)

At 3:58 PM, Blogger Patrick J. Smith said...

Well, when the Church is in apostasy, as the musical establishment certainly is with its perverse Shostakovich-worship, heresy is no sin. Rather the opposite, indeed.

Thanks for the comment, though.

At 7:50 PM, Blogger Doc Sarvis said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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