When Serious Music Mattered

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:
When Serious Music Mattered

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This chapter explores the works and achievement of the music composer Dmitry Shostakovich. The achievement was not his alone, but was the convolute result of the enormous talent that he was dealt, the all-too-interesting times in which he lived, the nature of the medium in which he worked, and his capacity for maintaining a poker face. The Historic Document, namely the famous and ominously unsigned editorial “Muddle Instead of Music,” ended the brilliant two-year career of his opera The Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, during which time it had gone around the world. Until that point, Shostakovich had himself been a spoiled brat of sorts. His preeminence among the first generation of Soviet-educated composers was assured by the première of his First Symphony, when he was nineteen. Shostakovich's musical style during this period is often called satirical. Its satire arose out of a play of incongruities, a rhetorical doubleness that undermined eloquence and seriosity. In Shostakovich's early symphonies and concertos, the lyogkiy zhanr (light genre) itself became the incongruous marker, with or without wrong notes.

Keywords: Dmitry Shostakovich; music composer; talent; Mtsensk District; satire

Chapter.  11009 words. 

Subjects: Musicology and Music History

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