Music for Silenced Voices: Shostakovich and His Fifteen by Wendy Lesser

By Wendy Lesser

Most prior books approximately Dmitri Shostakovich have inquisitive about both his symphonies and operas, or his courting to the regime lower than which he lived, or either, considering the fact that those large-scale works have been those that attracted the curiosity and infrequently the condemnation of the Soviet experts. Music for Silenced Voices seems at Shostakovich during the again door, because it have been, of his fifteen quartets, the works which his widow characterised as a "diary, the tale of his soul." The silences and the voices have been of many types, together with the political silencing of adventurous writers, artists, and musicians in the course of the Stalin period; the misplaced voices of Shostakovich's operas (a shape he deserted earlier than turning to thread quartets); and the death-silenced voices of his shut pals, to whom he devoted lots of those chamber works.

Wendy Lesser has built a desirable narrative during which the fifteen quartets, thought of one after the other in chronological order, lead the reader throughout the own, political, occasions that formed Shostakovich's singular, emblematic twentieth-century lifestyles. Weaving jointly interviews with the composer's neighbors, relations, and co-workers, in addition to conversations with present-day musicians who've performed the quartets, Lesser sheds new mild at the guy and the musician. one of many only a few books approximately Shostakovich that's aimed toward a basic instead of a tutorial viewers, Music for Silenced Voices is a excitement to learn; even as, it truly is carefully trustworthy to the recognized proof during this notoriously advanced lifestyles. it is going to fill readers with the will to listen to the quartets, that are one of the so much compelling and emotionally robust monuments of the prior century's tune.

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Extra info for Music for Silenced Voices: Shostakovich and His Fifteen Quartets

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The circumstances were the stuff of legend, with 48 m u s i c f o r s i l e n c e d vo i c e s scores being flown behind the lines, soldier-musicians assembled from the front, and war-ravaged civilians gathering bravely together in makeshift concert halls just to hear this one inspiring composition. In a public relations move that made the composer the Soviets’ most valuable international export (and gave him, one presumes, several extra years of privilege and protection), the Leningrad Symphony was even broadcast on the NBC Radio Network in America, under the baton of Arturo Toscanini.

And the audience response was utterly warm and enthusiastic, so much so that when the Beethoven Quartet gave the Moscow premiere that November, the musicians had to play the entire quartet over again as an encore. If the string quartet gave Shostakovich a route back to his childhood, it also offered him an escape from his previous musical history. He had been a noted concert pianist since his teens and a regular performer of his own Piano Concerto No. 1 since its 1933 premiere. Aside from a very early composition for string octet, his op.

But in late April of 1937 he began work on the Fifth Symphony, and by the end of the summer he was done with it. It was perceived by contemporaries, and in fact described by Shostakovich, as a much more conventional work than the Fourth, with four movements culminating in a rousing Finale “fortissimo and in the major,” as the composer put it. The Largo movement had enormous emotional appeal in a register that might, perhaps, have been taken as too gloomy; and there were one or two eccentricities hidden elsewhere in the piece, such as an allusion to the married surname of a recent girlfriend (she had married a man named Karmen, so Shostakovich quoted from Bizet), or an even more obscure reference to the as-yet-unheard Four Romances.

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