Casting a Great Composer as a Fictional Hero

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:
Casting a Great Composer as a Fictional Hero

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This chapter portrays the great composer Dmitry Shostakovich as a fictional hero. The catastrophic loss of prestige since the 1960s has made it harder for composers of contemporary classical music to indulge the old canard that serious artists live only in history, not in society. There is a new impulse to seek solidarity with listeners, and Shostakovich is suddenly a role model. The pact he forged with a great audience is what now impresses musicians and wins him new admirers, and music acutely resonated with the needs and aspirations of a public traumatized by autocracy and war. More importantly, however, more people began listening to a greater number of his works. The Fourth and Eighth Symphonies began appearing on as many concert programs as the Fifth and Seventh. The quartet cycles began. Recordings proliferated. Pretty much all of Shostakovich is now available. In 1960, by which time his international fame might have offered him a shield, Shostakovich gave in to pressure and joined the Communist Party.

Keywords: Dmitry Shostakovich; fame; music composer; symphonies; admiration

Chapter.  3322 words. 

Subjects: Musicology and Music History

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