Stalin Lives On in the Concert Hall, but Why?

Richard Taruskin

in On Russian Music

Published by University of California Press

Published in print December 2008 | ISBN: 9780520249790
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520942806 | DOI:
Stalin Lives On in the Concert Hall, but Why?

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This chapter examines the survival of Stalinist art, the reasons why it did not slip away into oblivion, and the present scenario in which these musical pieces are being scrutinized to “problematize” performances of Soviet music since 1956. These pieces have been known as the kul't lichnosti (the “cult of personality”) surrounding Stalin, and, according to John Rockwell, are “full of stirring music that should not be repressed for reasons of misguided puritanism.” The chapter also debates the abstract musical worth of musical pieces such as the Zdravitsa and the October Cantata, and the moral indifference entitled to artists and art-lovers. Performers would be far more likely to think twice before performing Holst's setting than they would Stravinsky's, because these settings have a distinctive anti-Semitic tone.

Keywords: Stalinist art; Soviet music; Zdravitsa; October Cantata; cult of personality; John Rockwell

Chapter.  2959 words. 

Subjects: Musicology and Music History

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