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  1. #1

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    I’m really hoping Jonah will chime in here.

    My favorite composer is Shostakovich. My second favorite composer is Mosolov. Stravinsky, Rachmaninoff...All of my favorites seem to be within a surprisingly close period and all Russian (I’m American).

    To be honest, for me it is the darkness and pain that draws me in. When there is a kitchy melody, it is clearly made to sound sarcastic— like they’re making fun of it. I feel a stronger connection to this music than even Jazz. I hope it does creep into my playing somehow.

    It’s not for everyone, by my estimation this is about as dark as classical music gets (correct me if I’m wrong because I’ll check out anything). But for me that’s where I live, so it’s like a companion.

    Any other fans?
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  3. #2

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    I will try to follow it



    I am not sure if you saw this short clip. It's the rehearsal of 'Nose' conducted by Rozhdestvensky 40 years after Shostakovich heard it for the last time.
    At the end they discuss tempo... SH. is asking to make it a bit faster...
    then R. asks more questions but SH. seem not to hear him and bigins to hum the aria from teh opera..

  4. #3

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    That was phenominal to see! I don’t know why, but it had never occured to me to look up video of him. He is just how I imagined. I will have to see if there are interviews with subtitles.

    I have started to read The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes which is a fictional take on Shostakovich. I would like to read a historically correct biography at some point too.
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  5. #4

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    I also whated to note that you mentioned composers of the few generations... those were who were born bofore Soviets -- Prokofiev, Stravinsky and Rahamaninov even studied before 1917 and were rooted in pre-Soviet Russian culture.

    Shostakovich and Mosoloc were definitely Soviet composerd - it does not mean they supported it, it just means it was already the part of their being an dinfluenced their philodophy and music.
    (Prokofiev tried when he came bak to Russia later but he really could not adopt to it he just did not get - which actually led him to total disaster).

    There was also the following generation of those born in 30's-40's and they became some kind of underground movement (together with poets, artis with same generation) whose youg active years fell on so-called 'thaw period' when Stalin dies and Khrushev made some liberal moves towards artists.
    THose are Alfred Schnittke, Galina Ustvolskaya, Edison, Denisov, Sfia Gubaidulina, Silvestrov, Alemdar Karamanov and also some youngerYuri Khanin

    Many of them worke din the movies to earn money and actually created very interesting soundtracks... sometimes putting the same ideas in more popular form..

    One of the feature they had was elclectics in style...

    I fyou do not mind I will add them too - just to give a representation of it.

    But now when I think about it I thinkl again taht probably they realkly make sense for those who lived there or at least whose parents did... I am not sure

  6. #5

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    Schnittke and Gubaidulina are known in the west I think, certainly I have heard them on BBC radio 3 quite a bit.

  7. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by joe2758 View Post
    Any other fans?
    yes Shostakovich fan for the same reasons as you, I dig the darkness! I like the 5th, 7th, 8th and 10th symphonies. Also the preludes and fugues (I have the recording by Tatiana Nikolayeva).

    I've read 'Testimony' which is of course quite controversial re. authenticity, but either way it's a great read in terms of evoking the period.

  8. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by grahambop View Post
    Schnittke and Gubaidulina are known in the west I think, certainly I have heard them on BBC radio 3 quite a bit.

    Of course.. and also Denisov (more in France).
    to be honest now it seems that the interest in the west was much more connected with political situtation (which does not deminish their artistic achivement).

    And why these three were chosen is also difficult to tell.
    From them I think only Schnittke is still or some interest for me. Though the effect of his music is often too straight-forward he still has some authencity.

    The thing is there were others often really more talented.

  9. #8

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    Thank you both, you’ve given me a ton to look into further.

    Graham have you heard some of the String Quartets? They are the first I heard of Shostakovich (I got CD from the library 10 years or so ago), and they remain my favorite. It sort of became my reference for the other works, if that makes sense
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  10. #9

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    As an intro to Schnittke I first offer this eclectic Rondo from Conscerto grosso 1.



    And then the whole Concerto



    I was about 18 when somebody gave me the disck with this concerto - I came home put it on without taking off the coat and wanted just to do some home job while listening... but as a result I just sat the whole concerto in the coat)))

    Today I do not overestimate him as a composer but still this feel of naked nerve seems to be so honest.

  11. #10

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    Jonah, could you tell a little about what exactly the Soviet musical ideal was? If they had complete control of Shostakovich and Mossolov, how would their music be changed? How did the Soviets WANT them to compose vs. how they did?
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  12. #11

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    Others beat me to it, but it sounds like you would like Alfred Schnittke. I find his Psalms of Repentance particularly dark and moving.


  13. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by joe2758 View Post
    Graham have you heard some of the String Quartets? They are the first I heard of Shostakovich (I got CD from the library 10 years or so ago), and they remain my favorite. It sort of became my reference for the other works, if that makes sense
    For some reason I've never been a big fan of string quartets, I don't know why, I tend to prefer symphonies, concertos etc. But I have heard some parts of the quartets, I should explore further, I know they are one of his great achievements.

  14. #13

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    I love the Schnittke, thank you! wow.
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  15. #14

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    I wrote a string quartet on my own that I showed to a composition teacher in college in order to get private composition lessons with him.
    He accepted me as a student, because he said he liked my quartet. He said it reminded him of Shostakovich's quartets, the way it went from very dark sounding music to brighter sounding music. I took some of Shostakovich's quartets out from the library, and didn't think my quartet sounded like any of his quartets.
    At this point, they were only teaching the Twelve-Tone method of composition of Schoenberg, which I hated. I finished the semester, and never took another composition course again. Today, I only write pieces for 17 piece big bands. I've written seven pieces in the last couple of years, and gotten them played by some of the big bands I play in.

  16. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by joe2758 View Post
    Jonah, could you tell a little about what exactly the Soviet musical ideal was? If they had complete control of Shostakovich and Mossolov, how would their music be changed? How did the Soviets WANT them to compose vs. how they did?
    This will tell you about Soviet official art concept, it applied to all arts, including music. Pessimistic or dark tragic stuff were not encouraged to say the least.

    I still remember talking about it in high school. But of course by late 80s the Perestroika changed all of this.
    Socialist realism - Wikipedia

  17. #16

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    I love the intro to the 8th symphony (1943). Apparently it was criticised as being too tragic (they were starting to win the war by then) and unofficially banned by the authorities.


  18. #17

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    Thanks for sharing Graham. I've never heard something too tragic, that's for sure. There is a movement of one of the quartets I want to find for you all and post. I can sing it and hear it in my head, but don't recall which quartet it is in. I'm in the process of listening to all of them in sequence, so I will find it.
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  19. #18

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    In 1967 we all piled into the '63 Chevy Biscayne and made the trek to the Montreal Expo. I made a bee-line to the Russian building and blew my budget on Shostakovitch, Rachmaninov, and Prokofiev LPs, having acquired a taste for same freshman year.

    Later, my kids grew up listening to those records, and Stravinsky, Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Katchaturian, and hordes of others, along with Burnett, Morganfield, Pass, the Three Kings, Jimi; Sonnys Stitt, Rollins, and -Boy Williamson; Bach Sr., Beethoven, Brahms, Beatles; Scarlatti, Gabrielli, Galagher, Niztinger; ZZ top, the Stones, Crazy Horse, P-Funk - y'know - the classics.
    Best regards, k

  20. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by joe2758 View Post
    Jonah, could you tell a little about what exactly the Soviet musical ideal was? If they had complete control of Shostakovich and Mossolov, how would their music be changed? How did the Soviets WANT them to compose vs. how they did?
    It's not a simple question...
    Partly as Hep and Graham said it was that the Soviet art should have been positive. Actually American positivism of the 30s was very similar on the surface - but not inside!

    But there were more things...

    As I said Rakhmaninov and Stravinsky were those in opposion to 'reds' immidiately. They never accepted for a second.
    Prokofiev was apolitical and that killed him.

    But Shostakovich was younger sbd gecwss alreadya part of this new country...
    It was some terrible energy in those years...
    And it was not always really clear if it coms from devil or god.
    Lots of artistic people were inspired by revolution... some directly supported it like Mayakovsky... some just felt this enormous energy and could not resist it like Pasternak, Blok... many others... these actually were disappointed quite quickly.

    Composers were in better position than writers. Words rule and kill.
    Plato used to say that poets are dangerous for the state. Stalin knew that.
    Besides poets had some special status in Russia... they were like pop stars today or prophets. In 10s-20s girls ran after Yesenin, Blok or Mayakovsky like after The Beatles..

    (To be continued.. it's my station in subwsy to come out))

  21. #20

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    In the early years of communism artists were given a lot of freedom and encouraged to be experimental, I think this was when Shostakovich was young so he benefited from that. Then of course later on it all changed and became repressive, so he had to learn to adapt and survive. Some of his friends or associates who didn’t were killed by the state.

    Shostakovich, a life remembered is a good book by Elizabeth Wilson. Not exactly a full biography, but based on interviews with many people who knew him.

  22. #21

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    Composers were a bit in a better position.
    It seems that politicians and officials could not 'read' music that well.
    The semantical anylysis of music of Shostakovich is an interesting topic as he really described many quite particular things in his music, it was his was to cheat the authoroties.

    First years of revolution gave benifits to srtists - and not that of the freedom (it was there befoire too) but tools - whish is really important for painters, architects, composers (later movie makers)- they need expensive materieals of big orchestras to fulfill their ideas.
    Witers need only pen and paper, and poets only good memory)))
    That's why they are killed first by the state - as those who have the most independent artistic spirit.
    (If you want to read the book about the period - read complete Nadezhda Madelstam's Memoires - wodow or Osip Mandelstam, to me it is one of the most powerful book of the 20th century).

    But it was not only that... again not to spread too much I'll take Prokofiev and Shostakovich...
    In 30's Prokofiev came back - he felt uncomfortable abrpiad, missed his motherland and as many immigrants (and many inteligent people in teh West) though that maybe there was something good going on there.
    When he came he quickly felt himself in the system that he could not understand.
    THe point is taht Prokofiev was sort of childish person, he did not get the logic of this country, the system of complex relationships, hints, exchange of roumors, concessions. He was not in opsiotion, he just did not get it.
    Maybe hw ouwld have had difficulty in the country like USA because he would not have had ability to sell himself well. But at least it would have been quite clear. But here it was very intricate.
    When he felt that he loses control over situation he tried to compose pro-Sovetic music...
    and this is what makes the biggest difference from Shostakovich to me.

    Pro-Sovietic music of Prokofiev is a disastrous faliure... he tried to fit formal frames but could not by his nature uderstand these condidtion. He was not Soviet person.

    Shostakovich music connected with Soviet topics almost always sounds very authentic, he wa in it. Even if he diagreed, he still was a Soviet person. You see.. there is the difference.

    It is very interesting for me - as a kid I remeber early 80s only and geetting older I watched movies, read books of those who were 'decidents' (oppositional movement in USSR) - Tarkovsky, Brodsky, Dovlatov, Sinyavsky, listend to music of teh composers I mentioned above. And I clearly felt that they were ooposition to the Soviet.

    But now when I re-read or re-watch it.. I often feel that oinly very few of them were really free - like Shalamov or Mandelstam or Paradzhanov, Brodsky - they were not Soviet in their spirit (though even sometimes born it it)...

    But the rest - though opposition - were absolutely Soviet... you know when I talk to foreigners they admore Tarkovsky's movies - they speak about 'Andrey Rublev' as a Russian spiritual moive.. it is...
    Tarkovsky was my idol..
    But today I really can hardly watch his movies... they are Soviet. Andrey Rublev is not about 15th century Russia and orthodoxal and artistic spirituality of icon artists.
    No... it's about the burdens, ambitions and pains of the artisits in the 60s of USSR.. about they pretensions and hopes that in many cases blew like bubbles when political tension fell down.
    It turned out that you do need oppostion or revolution to be a great poet or composer... there were Robert Frost or Charles Ives who just lived and did their daily jobs and made great free art...

    Of course there were exception... I mentioned above Shalamov, Mandelstam, I can also add Alexey Losev, partly Brodsky maybe some other names - but quite a few.

    You know I once read in some Italian poem... it was about a kid who sees a person publicly punushed on the square for being a debitor. The poem is ended with a line: Il figlio del debbittore io sono stato... 'And the son of the debitor was I'

    It is approximateltly like I feel... I am partly Soviet too, I recognize that BS in me and around me. That's why I feel compassion with Shostakovich , but at the same time I do not want to listen to him any more.

    There's Russian saying that can be translated like: 'The idiot in the family is dearer than smart guy outside'

    That's approxiamately how I see it.. not that they are idiots of course... but I appreciate them mostly becasue they are 'in the family'

  23. #22

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    Many years ago I saw the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Andre Previn doing Shostakovich's 5th symphony, that was a great concert.

    No matter how good these things can sound on a CD, experiencing the full weight of sound of a symphony orchestra live is something else.

  24. #23

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    Thanks guys, I’ll be back to follow up on the long posts. For now I wanted to leave this movement here. Thhe first time I heard it I was taking a walk and stopped in my path and leaned against a chain link fence when the theme at about 1:00 started. It about knocked me over. That was 10 years ago and I still remember

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  25. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by joe2758 View Post
    Thanks guys, I’ll be back to follow up on the long posts. For now I wanted to leave this movement here. Thhe first time I heard it I was taking a walk and stopped in my path and leaned against a chain link fence when the theme at about 1:00 started. It about knocked me over. That was 10 years ago and I still remember

    It's one of his most popular works .. do you know about DSCH theme? And dedication story?

  26. #25

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    No I had no idea, popular for good reason I’d say. I was listening through all the quartets and it hit me like a ton of bricks.

    Not aware of DSCH theme or dedication story
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  27. #26

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    Great thread, made me remember just how rich Russian music heritage is, what giants we had! Even though, sometimes I have a funny feeling, when it comes to being a jazz musician coming from Russia, it's almost like being a hockey player from Brazil haha.

  28. #27

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    Here's a lesser known Stravinsky piece that's among my favorites. I lived with a composer for some time who was critical of Stravinsky's later work. He called it complicit when compared to this early stuff and his serial stuff. As someone who appreciates modernism but also finds it ridiculous and self-indulgent at times, I absolutely LOVE this period of Stravinsky's compositions.



    By the way, if you go to 8:14 in the cantata clip above, you may recognize it if you listen to Jeff Parker (channeling Mr Beaumont). He used that motif in his latest record The New Breed.

    Check out 2:19 on this track.


  29. #28

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    One of my fav classical pieces ever, Prelude in G min by Rachmaninoff. I heard it first as a soundtrack in an old Soviet movie The Elder Son, which is brilliant on its own, alas obscure for the Western audience... But it made a powerful and deep story of the play even more profound, this music...

    I wish I could play it on guitar!


  30. #29

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    Quote Originally Posted by joe2758 View Post
    No I had no idea, popular for good reason I’d say. I was listening through all the quartets and it hit me like a ton of bricks.

    Not aware of DSCH theme or dedication story
    Some info here:

    String Quartet No. 8 (Shostakovich) - Wikipedia

  31. #30

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    Quote Originally Posted by grahambop View Post
    Yes - DSCH (D. Schostakovitsch in German transliteration) = D-ES-C-H main them of the quartet - also reference to famous B-A-C-H theme
    (the quartet was finished in Dresden during Bach festival)
    SH. music is full of quotes and allusions.

    Also about dedication I am not sure it is mentioned in English Wiki.
    SH. wrote in a letter to his frieand Isaac Glikman that he would like to dedicate the quartet 'In the memory of the author' - the letter is both ironical and serious (for ecample he says that he cried when he played it for the first time on piano (he composed always without instrument and played it only when the work was finished).
    And then he adds that he pured as many tears as one purs urine after a few good glasses of beer)))


    Later he had to make official dedication to the victims of fascism

    You know this Allegro theme always sounded jewish to me.. actually I often find in his music motives that sound similar to Eastern Europe jewish music.

  32. #31

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hep To The Jive View Post
    One of my fav classical pieces ever, Prelude in G min by Rachmaninoff. I heard it first as a soundtrack in an old Soviet movie The Elder Son, which is brilliant on its own, alas obscure for the Western audience... But it made a powerful and deep story of the play even more profound, this music...

    I wish I could play it on guitar!

    Ha... when I fisrt watched the movie as a kid I could not find that Prelude becasue in teh movie it orchestrated and I was lookign for it among symphonic works

    You know once Prokofiev came to Richter and Richter played Rakhmaninos's etudes and Prfokovief asked:
    How can you play these little excriments?

  33. #32

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jonah View Post
    Ha... when I fisrt watched the movie as a kid I could not find that Prelude becasue in teh movie it orchestrated and I was lookign for it among symphonic works

    You know once Prokofiev came to Richter and Richter played Rakhmaninos's etudes and Prfokovief asked:
    How can you play these little excriments?
    Oh yeeah it was orchestrated thats right! I think to fit some movie scenes better... But who did the orchestration, sure not the composer?? Not a simple task either way!

  34. #33

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    In an intro to our recent performance of Glazunov’s 1st Symphony, the speaker noted that in the first half of the 19th C Russia was nowhere musically speaking. They made up for that in the 2nd half of the 19th and into the 20th with the likes of Glaz, Borodin, Mussorgsky, R-K, Rach, Prok, Strav, Tchaik, and Shostakovich. That’s quite a musical heritage.

    One of my favourite musical moments is from Prok’s Romeo and Juliet suite, La Jeune Juliet movement. It’s a stunningly lovely musical picture of the young Juliet (who, we recall, is supposed to be 16 years old in the play).

  35. #34

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bach5G View Post
    In an intro to our recent performance of Glazunov’s 1st Symphony, the speaker noted that in the first half of the 19th C Russia was nowhere musically speaking. They made up for that in the 2nd half of the 19th and into the 20th with the likes of Glaz, Borodin, Mussorgsky, R-K, Rach, Prok, Strav, Tchaik, and Shostakovich. That’s quite a musical heritage.

    One of my favourite musical moments is from Prok’s Romeo and Juliet suite, La Jeune Juliet movement. It’s a stunningly lovely musical picture of the young Juliet (who, we recall, is supposed to be 16 years old in the play).
    Official conception is that it all begins with Glinka... but there was Russian music before it in baroque style which is now being perfomed by early music player, sometimes it has even Russian folk themes.

    Glinka also used European musical language - he just adapted it to Russian plots and used folk intonations and melodies. That founded the trend: Russian compositional school became a branch of European music.

    The only true exception is Musorgsky, he is as authentic as can be. It seems that he composed mostly just picking up music by ear (as well as Wagner probably) - he does not use conventional forms or consistent harmonic language.

  36. #35

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    Bill Evans was of Russian heritage. His friend Glenn Gould called him "the Scriabin of Jazz".