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Russian Music since 1917Reappraisal and Rediscovery$

Patrick Zuk and Marina Frolova-Walker

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780197266151

Published to University Press Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197266151.001.0001

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date: 29 May 2020

Soviet Music Studies Outside Russia: Glasnost’ and After

Soviet Music Studies Outside Russia: Glasnost’ and After

(p.51) Chapter 3 Soviet Music Studies Outside Russia: Glasnost’ and After
Russian Music since 1917

Patrick Zuk

British Academy

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter offers an overview of the principal developments in scholarship on Soviet music over the last two decades, highlighting notable achievements and the opening up of important new areas of study, in addition to assessing the extent to which perspectives on the period have undergone considerable change. It concludes with a discussion of the sizeable lacunae in knowledge that remain, and attempts to suggest potentially fruitful areas for further enquiry.

Keywords:   Russian music studies, Soviet music, censorship, post-Soviet culture

IN AN ARTICLE WRITTEN IN 1991, the eminent German Russian music specialist Detlef Gojowy observed that the advent of perestroika confronted scholars of Soviet music with a labour of daunting magnitude: ‘How many allegedly established “facts” that have been reiterated as certitudes in book after book must now be called into question and revised? Entire biographies must be rewritten afresh. …’1 Twenty-five years later, the task of reappraisal is still far from complete, though significant advances have been made. Recent research has not only deepened our knowledge and understanding of Soviet music and musical life, but wrought a transformation in how we think about and approach the study of the period. To a no lesser degree than their Russian counterparts, scholars based outside Russia have had to reconsider long-standing received opinions and questionable assumptions, many of them shaped by unexamined ideological biases.

For reasons explained in the Introduction to the present volume, the growth of Soviet music studies in the decades preceding perestroika had been slow. On the whole, scholars interested in Russian music focused on earlier periods—Alfred Swan, Gerald Abraham and David Brown being notable instances in point. Carrying out research in the USSR itself was beset by significant hindrances; and although a small number of researchers (amongst them Stanley Dale Krebs, Boris Schwarz and Malcolm Brown) managed to spend extended periods there, others had to rely predominantly for information on such Soviet publications as were available at home. By the 1980s, these were reasonably abundant: reference works of various kinds had been brought out (including encyclopaedias, general histories of Russian and Soviet music, institutional histories, accounts of the development of various genres in the USSR), while the more prominent Soviet composers, performers and writers on musical subjects were reasonably well served by biographical–critical (p.52) studies and compilations of source documents (notably, letters and memoirs), substantial articles in Sovetskaya muzïka (for many years the only Soviet musicological journal) and essays in edited volumes. Although these writings often contained useful material, most of them had to be approached with varying degrees of caution. Given the constraints on intellectual discourse and the strict censorship operative in the USSR, the reliability of Soviet publications was always in doubt; and even if the information that they provided happened to be accurate, its interpretation might prove anything but straightforward.

Appraisals of the careers and creative achievements of Soviet composers, for example, were enveloped in a fog of obfuscation partially generated by the composers themselves. The extent to which their public pronouncements about their own work or on general cultural and artistic issues could be taken at face value was often doubtful; and their private attitudes to the circumstances in which they found themselves were frequently impossible to ascertain (and in many cases will probably remain so). Important primary source (such as musicians’ letters) were published in a highly selective or heavily redacted fashion—if they managed to get past the censor in the first place. (Miral’da Kozlova’s edition of the correspondence exchanged by Nikolay Myaskovsky and Boris Asaf’yev from the 1920s to the 1940s, a richly informative source about the lives of both men, was repeatedly blocked from publication and remained in manuscript at the time of her death.2 Such occurrences were by no means uncommon.) And even if editorial interference had been minimal, the contents tended to be disappointingly anodyne: like most Soviet citizens, composers were generally circumspect in expressing their private views on sensitive matters, and especially on paper. Biographies of prominent Soviet musicians and memoirs by their contemporaries mostly presented a carefully composed formal portrait that offered little insight into the private person behind the public persona. Discussion of anything that might present the subjects themselves or their environment in a less than flattering light was studiously avoided, except within certain well-defined limits. It was, of course, de rigueur to condemn any ‘formalist’ and ‘decadent’ tendencies manifest in their work—but such condemnation was almost invariably tempered by stressing composers’ frank acknowledgement of their lapses and their gratitude for ‘comradely’ criticism, the concern shown by the Party for their welfare and the supposed genuineness of their subsequent reform. Soviet composers, it seemed, were models of conscientiousness and industry, toiling devotedly in the service of socialist construction; they subscribed whole-heartedly to the values of the society in which they lived, were largely exempt (p.53) from ordinary human failings, seldom experienced difficulties or conflicts and mostly basked in a warm glow of universal appreciation that stimulated the fullest possible realisation of their artistic potential.

Needless to say, such accounts gloss over or omit as much as they reveal. One will search in vain, for example, in the various Soviet publications on Aram Khachaturian or Vissarion Shebalin for an adequate account of their involvement in or responses to the traumatic events of 1948, when they were not only censured as formalists, but also dismissed from their respective posts as deputy chairman of the Composers’ Union and director of the Moscow Conservatoire. As late as 1986, Gavriil Popov’s diary entries concerning his condemnation in 1948 had to be excised from the collection of source documents posthumously assembled by his wife, the musicologist Zarui Apetyan, before the book could be passed for publication.3 One will similarly find no allusions to friends and colleagues of Soviet composers being murdered during the Stalinist purges or consigned to labour camps. And while some of these publications were produced to a high standard and retain their importance even today (such as Izrail’ Nest’yev’s studies of Prokofiev),4 others were littered with inaccuracies or seek to impose a highly misleading construct on the lives and work of their subjects. The standard two-volume Soviet biography of Shostakovich, by Sof’ya Khentova,5 has been described by Laurel Fay as ‘a minefield of misinformation and misrepresentation, incorrect dates and facts, errors of every stripe’.6 Perhaps the most egregious example is Tamara Livanova’s monograph on Nikolay Myaskovsky, which presents his career as the edifying morality tale of a recalcitrant modernist who, after protracted struggles punctuated by regrettable episodes of recidivism, eventually reformed under the wise guidance of the Communist Party.7 The dubiousness (p.54) of the book’s contents will be evident to any alert reader: it is thinly referenced and largely consists of unsupported assertions generously larded with the so-called obyazatel’nïye tsitatï (‘obligatory quotations’) from the classics of Communist literature that Soviet scholars were routinely expected to incorporate into their work. Yet unsatisfactory as it was, it remained one of the few substantial publications on this major figure. Similar reservations applied pari passu to other kinds of Soviet publications on music. Inevitably, their factual inaccuracies and dubious perspectives passed over into pre-glasnost’ Western writings to a greater or lesser degree, according to the strength of their authors’ critical acumen or their ability to check facts for themselves.

Even with the advent of glasnost’, these complex problems still made it difficult for Western researchers to get their bearings. As Gojowy pointed out, the task facing them was not merely that of revision, but of starting afresh, more or less from scratch—in some cases, to be confident of even elementary facts. Nor was the unreliability of Soviet sources the only obstacle to greater objectivity: much Western writing on the subject was equally questionable, refracting the distorted views of Soviet music presented in Soviet scholarship through a second distorting ideological prism.

In the West, as in the USSR, ideological and aesthetic concerns were often inextricably intertwined in the evaluation of new music—with fateful consequences for the reception of work by Soviet composers outside its country of origin. After the inception of the Cold War, Western commentators increasingly emphasised the restrictions under which Soviet composers laboured after the imposition of Socialist Realism as an official creative aesthetic in 1932, pointing to the condemnation of Shostakovich in 1936 and the notorious campaign against ‘formalism’ instigated by Andrey Zhdanov in 1948. Their readers were invited to regard the USSR as a cultural wasteland fundamentally inimical to musical creativity worthy of the name. It is consequently unsurprising that Soviet music, insofar as it was performed in the West in the decades following the Second World War, frequently elicited critical responses that were at best ambivalent, at worst condescending and hostile—as the complex Western reception history of Shostakovich attests.8

In surveying Western writings from this period, one is struck by their frequent propensity to characterise Soviet music and musical life in sweepingly negative terms, and in a tone of vehement moral condemnation. The titles of accounts by prominent émigrés such as Jury Jelagin and Andrey Olkhovsky evoked the ‘taming’ and the ‘agony’ of the art of music under (p.55) Stalin.9 Theodor Adorno declared that it would be preferable to have ‘no art rather than Socialist Realism’, claiming that Zhdanov had ‘not only enchained the force of artistic production … but actually broken it’, thereby bringing about wholesale ‘aesthetic regression’.10 Similar views found forceful expression in the public statements of the expatriate Russian composer Nicolas Nabokov, who became the spiritus rector of the CIA-funded Congress for Cultural Freedom, an influential anti-Communist advocacy group established in 1950. Nabokov strove to counter Soviet attacks on Western art by organising major international festivals of modernist compositions that he extolled as ‘the products of free minds in a free world’,11 in contrast to the ‘sad, grey, academic art’ produced in the USSR, which he summarily dismissed as ‘thoroughly outmoded’ and ‘provincial’.12

Scholarship on Russian music was not immune from this tendency. Its most extreme manifestation is perhaps to be found in Stanley Dale Krebs’s Soviet Composers and the Development of Soviet Music (1970), whose value as a pioneering survey was seriously compromised by its flagrant tendentiousness. In this respect, it was very much a product of its time and place. Krebs found seemingly incontrovertible evidence of the sterilising effects of Soviet cultural policy on musical creativity at every turn: his evaluations of the work of Soviet composers are harshly dismissive and have frequent recourse to shrill invective. Thus, Khachaturian, Kabalevsky and Khrennikov are collectively derided as ‘the canaille of twentieth-century Art’; while a score by Sviridov, who is excoriated for his ‘crudeness and vulgarity’, is held to exhibit the ‘pathetic, mawkish prettiness of a Moscow prostitute’.13 Ironically, in the intemperateness of its judgements and its blatant lack of objectivity, the book recalls the diatribes of Soviet musicologists against Western musical modernism, which deplored its supposed decadence as symptomatic of the decaying state of bourgeois culture in capitalist societies.

This is by no means to suggest that Krebs’s book was wholly typical of Western publications on Soviet music, any more than it would be warranted to cast doubt on the merits of the productions of contemporary Soviet (p.56) scholars in their entirety. Boris Schwarz’s magisterial Music and Musical Life in Soviet Russia: 1917–1970 (1972) represented a particularly noteworthy achievement, which not only drew on a wealth of Russian-language documentation, but engaged with its subject matter in a more balanced and sympathetic manner. The expanded edition brought out in 1983 has remained a standard work of reference (and has yet to be superseded in anglophone scholarship), even if important aspects of Schwarz’s account stand in need of revision—especially his sweeping generalisations concerning the ‘regimentation’ of Soviet musical creativity after 1932, which he makes no attempt to substantiate by examining a cross-spectrum of representative compositions.14

Essentially, the picture to emerge from both of these foundational reference works was that, with very rare exceptions, Soviet composers were too cowed by cultural bureaucrats, too motivated by cynical careerism or too much in thrall to state ideology to produce work of genuine artistic value. It was assumed as a matter of course that the styles of Soviet composition were fundamentally determined by censorship and ideological pressures—even though the exact nature, extent and degree of uniformity of these constraints were left unspecified. Schwarz spoke of the overwhelmingly ‘conventional’, ‘platitudinous’, ‘provincial’ and ‘safely conservative’ nature of Soviet music after 1932, when it became ‘estranged and isolated from the musical mainstream of the West’,15 a decidedly partisan verdict that scarcely acknowledges the very varied character, consummate craftsmanship and imaginative vitality of the finest subsequent Soviet compositional achievements of this period. Implicitly, Soviet music was only deserving of respectful attention insofar as it conformed to fashionable ‘advanced’ Western compositional idioms, and could be interpreted as evincing resistance to a repressive regime.

The sensation caused by the publication in the West in 1979 of Shostakovich’s purported memoirs (‘as told to and edited by’ Solomon Volkov) prompted a reconsideration of such attitudes in his case at least: rather than being a loyal stooge of the Communist Party, as many (though not all) had imagined, the composer now appeared as a tragic victim who had battled to maintain his artistic and personal integrity in harrowing circumstances and employed the medium of his art to convey cryptic messages of protest to those who had ears to hear. This construct underwent elaboration not only in musical journalism, but also in writing with pretensions to greater (p.57) intellectual seriousness and substance.16 Although such discourse prompted an upsurge of interest in Shostakovich and in Soviet music more generally, it promulgated new clichés and stereotypes that were just as misleading as the old. It also encouraged dubious hermeneutic approaches to Shostakovich’s music which were remarkably similar to the much-derided strategies adopted by Soviet commentators to elucidate the putative ideological ‘content’ of abstract instrumental works, even if the conclusions reached were very different.17 In Dmitry Kabalevsky’s reading, Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony portrays a hero who overcomes tragic conflicts to attain a ‘genuinely optimistic outlook on life’; whereas Ian MacDonald with equal confidence declared the score to be pervaded by ‘cartoon satire’ of Stalin, complete with mordantly ironic evocations of the dictator’s appearances at political rallies (‘There can be absolutely no doubt … that it is objective description…’).18

The frequently unedifying controversies provoked by Testimony brought into sharp focus the epistemological and methodological problems that had bedevilled the study of Soviet music in the West—the difficulty of establishing basic facts, the questionable reliability of sources, the status of the available evidence and the limits of its legitimate interpretation. However, in retrospect, they played an important role in prompting the fresh start that Gojowy urged. In many respects, Laurel Fay’s Shostakovich: A Life, published in 1990, furnished an ideal exemplar of the new approach that he envisioned: refusing to take anything on trust, Fay returned wherever possible to primary sources, meticulously checking and re-checking the facts. Her determined eschewal of any hint of sensationalism was notable, as was her abstention from unwarranted speculative interpretations of Shostakovich’s behaviour and motives. Paradoxically, her very restraint and her insistence on Shostakovich’s inscrutability lent her portrait a rich suggestiveness and depth. It was a superb achievement that set new standards of rigour for studies of Soviet composers and inaugurated a new phase in scholarship.

(p.58) The brief survey of scholarship on Soviet music since glasnost’ that follows makes no claims to exhaustiveness. My principal aim has been to provide a useful introduction to the current state of the field for the non-specialist, highlighting important achievements and attempting to bring into focus the principal changes of outlook and general approach from pre-glasnost’ writings. Much of this research activity has been concentrated in the United States and in Great Britain, where interest in Russian cultural studies has remained strong since the Second World War. A significant number of university music departments in both countries employ a Russian music specialist on the staff and recruit students wishing to pursue research in the area to their doctoral programmes. The size of the postgraduate community will inevitably remain small (not least because of the necessity to learn Russian if students are to be sufficiently well equipped to carry out research), but it has nonetheless grown perceptibly in recent years. Outside the anglophone world, the other major centres for research on Russian and Soviet music are Germany and Finland.

As far as writings on Soviet composers and their work are concerned, most of what was published in the West in the immediate post-glasnost’ period focused on three areas: the avant-garde composers of the 1920s; Shostakovich; and the ‘unofficial’ composers,19 who came to prominence in the 1960s. Needless to say, this circumstance indicated the lingering influence of views of the USSR shaped by the Cold War and historical narratives of twentieth-century music which predominantly validated musical works according to the extent that they were deemed to exhibit ‘progressive’ technical and stylistic traits. It reflected widespread acceptance of an assessment of the legacy of Soviet composition popularised by Boris Schwarz and others: a heady, but brief, period of modernist experimentation during the 1920s which was abruptly cut short after Stalin’s accession to supreme power; an intervening period of ‘regimentation’ lasting over three decades during which Socialist Realist dreariness prevailed; and a recrudescence of worthwhile artistic activity in the 1960s, perceived as doubly laudable in betokening an attempt to catch up with contemporary Western trends and as an expression of defiance towards the Soviet regime.

This fact notwithstanding, the growth of interest in Soviet music of the 1920s and 1960s–1970s was a welcome development, and gave rise to a reasonably extensive literature (principally in English and German). Of major publications dealing with the 1920s, one might single out Larry Sitsky’s (p.59) pioneering study Music of The Repressed Russian Avant-Garde: 1900–1929 (1994), David Haas’s Leningrad Modernists (1998) and, more recently, Wolfgang Mende’s fine study Musik und Kunst in der sowjetischen Revolutionskultur (2009) as particularly noteworthy. Writings on the music of Denisov, Schnittke, Pärt, Gubaidulina and other figures of their generation are also fairly numerous. Larger-scale publications, whether on individuals or on either period, remain few in number, however: of all these figures, Schnittke is perhaps the best-served, thanks to the efforts of the late Alexander Ivashkin, and useful introductions to the life and work of Pärt and Gubaidulina have been written by Paul Hillier and Michael Kurtz respectively.20 Although the finest of these publications are informative and sensitively written, with hindsight it is difficult not to feel ambivalent about the responses that both of these repertories have elicited in the West. As Svetlana Savenko and others have pointed out, to Russian ears, Western commentary has often sounded distinctly condescending, whether approbatory or dismissive (a point reiterated by Levon Hakobian in his contribution to the present volume).21 Moreover, one wonders to what extent their reception has been shaped by extra-musical factors, rather than responses to the music itself—its evocation in the minds of Western listeners of romanticised notions of the dissident, persecuted Soviet composer, perhaps; or because its sound-world conveys a sense of anguish and desolation that conforms to their imaginings of the kind of compositions that ought to be written by artists living under a dictatorship. Indeed, the music was promoted and marketed in a way that explicitly encouraged associations of this kind.22 For this reason, Peter Schmelz’s illuminating monograph Such Freedom, If Only Musical: Unofficial Soviet Music during the Thaw (2009) has been especially valuable in leading us to reject such stereotypical understandings in favour of a more nuanced and complex view of these composers’ work and its relationship to the cultural matrix from which it emerged.

Attitudes towards Shostakovich’s music in the early 1990s were, if anything, even more complicated. Long derided as trite and stylistically anachronistic by hierophantic arbiters of sophisticated musical taste such as (p.60) Pierre Boulez, the dramatic disclosure of his supposed secret dissidence caused his work to be heard very differently, granting permission, as it were, to listen to it and even to appreciate it without feeling that one’s aesthetic and intellectual standards had been irremediably compromised. Since then, both Shostakovich and Prokofiev have acquired an increasing measure of respectability thanks to the persuasive advocacy of leading specialists in the field, and their stature is no longer seriously contested. In this respect, a key role was initially played by pioneering analytical studies such as David Fanning’s groundbreaking monograph on Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony, published in 1988, which forcefully demonstrated its composer’s technical mastery and his originality as a symphonic thinker.23 The more relaxed critical climate of recent years has also been an important factor, as musicologists have increasingly come to reject the notion than only certain strands of twentieth-century music can be accepted as authentic reflections of the state of modernity. The work of other composers active between the 1920s and the early 1960s, however, remains at the margins of awareness, and a comprehensive reassessment of this period has been slow to get under way. Clearly, the blanket dismissal of the bulk of the music written during these years in terms of lazy, hazy stereotypes is unacceptable, as is the notion that the nation’s major composers felt compelled to prostitute their talents and produce hackwork en masse until the Thaw. However, there have been encouraging signs that perspectives have changed considerably in recent years.

From the turn of the millennium, a distinct shift became perceptible in Soviet music studies as musicologists increasingly engaged with the work of leading Soviet cultural and social historians such as Sheila Fitzpatrick and considered the implications of newer research on other Soviet artistic domains. Needless to say, this has represented a very considerable enrichment and prompted a notable expansion of intellectual purview. It has also led to a much greater emphasis on archival research, as musicologists began to emulate the studies of Soviet institutions and bureaucracy undertaken by colleagues working in related fields. This development has been especially important, and should help to dispel what remains of the miasma of projections and unhelpful assumptions that clouded Western views of Soviet music and musical life for so long.

Incontrovertibly, the other most significant stimulus for the development of Soviet music studies in this new phase derived from the work of Richard Taruskin. Although his major research projects of the 1990s focused on other (p.61) areas of Russian music, the groundbreaking studies of Musorgsky and Stravinsky that arose from them,24 together with the collection Defining Russia Musically: Historical and Hermeneutical Essays (1997), had a profoundly transformative effect on the discipline as a whole. Engagingly written, brilliantly argued and demonstrating remarkable powers of assimilation, these writings offered fresh and original perspectives on their subject matter, stripping away accretions of cliché and misrepresentation. They also pioneered approaches that had far-reaching implications for the wider field—especially Taruskin’s analyses of the questionable assumptions informing received understandings of musical ‘Russianness’ and shaping the processes of critical validation both in Russia itself and outside it. In this respect, his work proved a fertile source of inspiration, and provided scholars of Soviet music with a powerful set of conceptual and methodological tools. When it comes to more general historiographical issues, his radical questioning of conventional Western narratives of twentieth-century music and their ideological underpinnings (most notably in his Oxford History of Western Music) touch on matters that are centrally relevant to any reconsideration of Soviet music and musical life. Taruskin’s views have proved controversial, but the importance of the issues that he has raised cannot be gainsaid.

The troubling moral questions raised by art produced under a repressive regime have remained a consistent preoccupation: several of the occasional pieces collected in the volume On Russian Music (2008) explore contentious questions connected with the contemporary reception of music by Prokofiev and Shostakovich. The view of both men that emerges from these essays is complex and ambiguous—a view of Soviet composers ‘for grown-up people’ (to echo Virginia Woolf’s celebrated remark about George Eliot’s Middlemarch), far removed from the reductionist and sentimental stereotypes of persecuted genius popularised by Testimony. Taruskin neither diminishes the sufferings that they endured at the hands of Soviet officialdom nor disputes the stature of their creative achievement, for which his admiration is abundantly manifest. At the same time, he does not lose sight of the fact that both were highly rewarded by the regime and entered into compromises with it out of choice as well as necessity—which considerably complicates any assessment of their lives and work. Taruskin has played an equally valuable role as a commentator on new developments in Soviet music studies as they have emerged, helping to contextualise them and encouraging reflection on the wider significance of the issues raised for the discipline of musicology as a whole.

(p.62) Interestingly, some of the most significant recent work in Soviet music studies has focused on the Stalinist era—another departure from the trends of the immediate post-glasnost’ period. Our sense of the complexity of musical life of this period has grown steadily as exploration of Russian archives has gathered momentum and Western researchers have increasingly benefited from the discoveries of Russian colleagues. Of biographical studies, the most notable since Fay’s biography of Shostakovich has been Simon Morrison’s The People’s Artist: Prokofiev’s Soviet Years (2009), which comes closer than any other previous publication to conveying a sense of Prokofiev’s lived experience of musical life in the USSR, drawing extensively on archival sources. Morrison’s portrayal of Prokofiev, which is amplified in his biography of the composer’s first wife, The Love and Wars of Lina Prokofiev (2013), makes for disturbing reading: paradoxically, Prokofiev’s new environment prompted some of his finest artistic achievements in spite of all the frustrations and disappointments with which he had to contend, yet pitilessly exposed his all-too-human frailties and failings. The contrast with the traditions of sanitised Soviet biography could hardly be more striking.

Shostakovich has been reasonably well served by publications of other kinds—major collections of essays edited by notable specialists;25 studies of individual compositions (such as Pauline Fairclough’s monograph on the Fourth Symphony,26 of especial value for its contextualisation of the work in relation to Russian and Western symphonic traditions, and Soviet thinking on the symphony) and of his contributions to particular genres (amongst them Judith Kuhn’s study of the quartets, Michael Rofe’s of the symphonies and Joan Titus’s of the early film music);27 and major articles in reference works and leading scholarly journals. Important aspects of Shostakovich’s work remain comparatively unexplored, however, and there is abundant scope for further consideration of his musical language, style and formal approaches. Prokofiev’s work too has attracted increasing attention, leading to the appearance of important studies of his stage works and film music, as well as (p.63) analytical investigations of various kinds.28 There has also been a perceptible growth of textual scholarship, including major projects such as the preparation of an edition of the original version of War and Peace by Rita McAllister, a pioneering figure in research on the Prokofiev operas. Given the complex problems attendant on the texts of many of Prokofiev’s works, it seems likely that this area will continue to grow in importance, and especially if plans to produce a complete critical edition are ever to be realised.

When it comes to other musicians prominent on the Soviet musical scene between the 1920s and the mid-1960s, publications are still much sparser. No major studies of individual figures have appeared that are comparable to Fay’s and Morrison’s in scope and depth. Undoubtedly, this state of affairs is partially due to the commitment of time and material resources required to undertake the extensive archival research in Russia that must constitute an indispensible preliminary to any such task. Mention should be made, however, of David Fanning’s Mieczyslaw Weinberg: In Search of Freedom (2010), which, despite its brevity, provides a valuable introduction to a composer whose work has received an increasing measure of international attention. Such other writings as have appeared generally contain little original research and largely confine themselves to rehashing information from Soviet publications. The dearth of significant new publications on Glazunov, Glier, Myaskovsky, Shebalin, Khachaturian and Kabalevsky, to mention only a few names, is striking, even in Russia itself: every important figure apart from Shostakovich and Prokofiev still awaits reappraisal—and, sometimes, even an initial appraisal. As anyone who teaches university courses on Soviet music will know only too well, this circumstance imposes severe restrictions on the kinds of topics that it is feasible to explore with students, since there is little useful secondary literature in their native language to which they can refer. These circumstances are all the more frustrating because it is easier nowadays to hear music by Soviet composers than ever before, as Soviet-era recordings continue to be reissued or made available on the internet, and enterprising performers explore neglected corners of the repertoire. Obtaining scores can still prove difficult, but matters have also improved considerably in this respect.

These problems are compounded by the fact that translations of important source materials and major works of contemporary Russian-language scholarship have been infrequent—unsurprisingly, perhaps, given the highly (p.64) specialised competences required. That said, the quality of such translations as have appeared has often been very distinguished—David Haas’s rendering of Boris Asaf’yev’s Symphonic Études;29 Anthony Phillips’s of Prokofiev’s diaries;30 and Marina Frolova-Walker and Jonathan Walker’s Music and Soviet Power 1917–1932, an anthology of texts translated from the contemporary periodical literature and other sources, linked with skilfully written and illuminating commentaries.31 Translations of major collections, such as Leonid Maksimenkov’s compendium of materials about the administration of Soviet musical life,32 would be a valuable undertaking, and would usefully supplement extant publications documenting other areas of intellectual and cultural life in the USSR—notably, the Annals of Communism series issued by Yale University Press.

The newer trends in Soviet music studies to which I referred are especially manifest in more recent publications on particular phases of Soviet musical life, musical institutions and on the workings of cultural bureaucracy in regard of music. One of the most notable tendencies in scholarship on other Soviet cultural domains over the last three decades has been the rejection of simplistic ‘top-down’ models of Soviet cultural construction and of appraisals of Soviet artistic production primarily in terms of state-imposed constraints. Scholars of Soviet literature and visual arts, for example, such as Evgeny Dobrenko, Katerina Clark, Leonid Heller and Antoine Baudin (to mention only a few names) have proposed much more complex models of interaction, emphasising the role played by artists themselves in the development of those styles that are lumped together under the highly problematic epithet of ‘Socialist Realism’. There have also been some notable suggestions that Socialist Realism merits more thoughtful consideration as an attempt to offer a ‘full-blooded and thoroughly conceived’ aesthetic alternative to modernism (in the art historian Matthew Cullerne Bown’s arresting phrase), rather than being viewed merely as a cynically adopted camouflage for enforced state control of the arts; and that much Socialist Realist art deserves to be taken seriously qua art, with the recognition of the creativity and individuality of the artists concerned that this would entail—rather than being explicated (p.65) exclusively in terms of political directives and pressures exerted by cultural bureaucrats.33

Some of the most important work on Soviet music of more recent years has been concerned with precisely such questions, especially in relation to the 1920s and the Stalinist era. Neil Edmunds’s The Soviet Proletarian Music Movement (2000) represented the first attempt in any language to reassess a faction in early Soviet musical life that has been much maligned: in the West, the group’s agenda and aims have traditionally been construed as adumbrating the most repressive aspects of Stalinist cultural policy. Edmunds’s account is notable for being both balanced and sympathetic; and while one may conclude that the music written by Russian Association of Proletarian Musicians’ (RAPM’s) composer members was not, on the whole, very distinguished, and that their policies were misguided, Edmunds quite rightly reminds us that we should not overlook the genuine idealism that informed the actions of at least some of its representatives in their efforts to create a new proletarian musical culture. These issues deserve to be explored more fully, and considered in conjunction with the ambivalent attitudes towards ‘elite’ musical cultures that have come to the fore in Western musicological writing in recent decades. Amy Nelson’s Music for the Revolution: Musicians and Power in Early Soviet Russia (2004) also represented a contribution of landmark importance, being the first detailed general study of musicians’ attempts to establish a modus vivendi with Soviet power in the years immediately following the Revolution, as they grappled with complex issues connected with the administration of musical life and musical institutions, music education, censorship and the highly conflicted envisionings of the nature and purpose of Soviet musical creativity that emerged at the period. Drawing extensively on the contemporary periodical literature and archival sources, Nelson’s investigation surpasses all previous accounts in its concreteness and specificity. As she persuasively demonstrates, not only were the discontinuities between musical life in the 1920s and the 1930s less pronounced than had been assumed, but Soviet musicians took an active role in shaping the musical culture and circumstances of musical life that consolidated during the Stalinist era.

Kiril Tomoff’s Creative Union: The Professional Organization of Soviet Composers, 1939–1953 (2006) presented the first detailed study of one of the USSR’s most important musical institutions. Here too, the evidence suggested a very different picture to the uniform ‘regimentation’ assumed by Schwarz: as Tomoff discovered, not only had official oversight of the Union’s affairs and of its members’ activities been rather lax until 1948, but its members were (p.66) to a considerable extent successful in protecting and furthering their professional interests in the face of governmental interference. His book highlighted the importance of archival researches for elucidating the workings of the USSR’s cultural bureaucracy and the professional circumstances in which Soviet composers operated. It shed a new light on a number of matters which had previously remained rather obscure, such as the role played by financial irregularities and professional rivalries in precipitating the major crisis of 1948. His account has been usefully supplemented by recent studies of the administration of Soviet musical life by Simo Mikkonen and Meri Herrala, amongst others.34

Inna Klause’s monograph Der Klang des Gulag: Musik und Musiker in den sowjetischen Zwangsarbeitslagern der 1920er-bis 1950er-Jahre (2014) represents a pioneering contribution on an extremely important, but poorly researched subject—the extent to which Soviet musicians were subject to detention in camps, one of the ultimate sanctions that the state had at its disposal. Her findings (some of which are discussed in her contribution to the present volume) suggest the need to reconsider the widely held opinion that musicians enjoyed greater immunity from arrest than representatives of other artistic domains because music was perceived by Soviet officialdom as being less important for propagandistic purposes than literature, film and the visual arts. While there is little evidence to suggest that prisoners were arraigned for offences pertaining to music per se, it would nonetheless seem that professional musicians ended up in the camps in considerable numbers—often, because they had been arrested at random to meet secret police quotas during the Great Terror of 1936–1938.

Considerations of musical Socialist Realism have been surprisingly few, all the more so since the application of this doctrine to a non-verbal, non-conceptual medium such as music proved highly problematic—a circumstance that raises numerous interesting issues for exploration. Michael John’s Die Anfänge des sozialistischen Realismus in der sowjetischen Musik der 20er und 30er Jahre: historische Hintergründe, ästhetische Diskurse und musikalische Genres (2009) and Jiří Smrž’s Symphonic Stalinism: Claiming Russian Musical Classics for the New Soviet Listener, 1932–1953 (2011) present useful accounts of early Soviet discourse on the subject and of attempts to translate theory into practice, the latter especially emphasising the dynamic nature of the processes by which understandings of what constituted Socialist Realist music were constructed and their concomitant slipperiness and mutability. While (p.67) the validity of this view can readily be acknowledged, the work of Marina Frolova-Walker suggests that matters were rather more complex: it is indisputable that the vagueness of much of the discourse surrounding Socialist Realism allowed composers a considerable degree of latitude in regard of their obligation to engage with suitable ideological subjects, especially when it came to abstract instrumental music, but this should not be taken to mean that all the theorising was largely a meaningless charade. In an important essay of 2009, she argued that it was time for musicologists ‘to approach an explicitly anti-modernist aesthetic on its own terms, and not merely as an irrational aberration within the modernist narrative’:

Lunacharsky and other cultural officials of his circle had read Ortega-y-Gasset’s essay ‘The Dehumanization of Art’, which was an early exposition of modernism as an elitist aesthetic that sought to remove the universally recognizable human content from art. Setting out to construct a new culture for the Soviet people, it was quite understandable that they saw modernism as elitist and dehumanized. On this understanding of modernism, it was entirely rational to formulate Socialist Realism in opposition to modernism, and if we are to take it seriously as historians (which is not the same as endorsing it personally), we should avoid presenting Socialist Realism as a ludicrous and pointless invention, an arbitrary decision to prevent composers from having the modernist fun they all supposedly wanted.

Neither should we look at Socialist Realism in music merely as a coercive discourse or power struggle, but also as a musical style that is just as defined and recognizable as, say, Neoclassicism.35

In many respects, Frolova-Walker’s wide-ranging writings exemplify the more complex, nuanced perspectives that have evolved over the last two decades, as well as the increasing theoretical and methodological sophistication, and alertness to the implications of contemporary research on other aspects of Soviet cultural and intellectual life. In addition to her work on Socialist Realism, she has made significant contributions to the literature on Russian nationalism (including the major study Russian Music and Nationalism: From Glinka to Stalin (2007)), Soviet opera and the Stalinist project of musical ‘nation building’. Her most recent book, Stalin’s Music Prize: Soviet Culture and Politics (2016), is a particularly impressive achievement in its examination of archival sources to elucidate the functioning of the bureaucratic structure responsible for awarding the state’s highest artistic honour during the Stalin era, in the process shedding new light on the responses of leading Soviet musicians to the circumstances of their professional lives. Once again, it (p.68) highlights the degree of autonomy and sense of their own effectiveness and agency that many of these musicians seem to have experienced, in spite of political and bureaucratic pressures. Although Frolova-Walker’s account by no means minimises these pressures, the reader comes away with a strong sense of the fundamental integrity of key protagonists such as Aleksandr Gol’denveyzer and Nikolay Myaskovsky, and their concern to uphold artistic standards. Her portrayals lend a new dignity not only to these individual figures, but to Soviet musical life as a whole, reminding us of the serious commitment of its leading representatives to the maintenance of a high musical culture, and the extent to which they succeeded in maintaining this in the face of many difficulties.

An equally valuable corrective to exaggerated views of the Soviet Union as a musical wasteland is provided by Pauline Fairclough’s recent book Classics for the Masses: Shaping Soviet Musical Identity under Lenin and Stalin (2016), which examines Soviet concert activity in the earlier phases of its development, focusing on the kinds of repertoire that were favoured and the role played by music in evolving narratives of Soviet national identity. The quality and variety of the musical fare presented to audiences was distinctly surprising, extending even to such unlikely offerings as Bach’s B Minor Mass. Fairclough’s study valuably complements and extends recent research by Katerina Clark and others, underlining the importance attached to maintaining contact with Western cultural and intellectual life throughout the Stalinist period, even if this contact became increasingly fraught and attenuated as the period neared its close. It also emphasises the remarkable vitality of the Soviet musical scene during these years, in spite of all the restrictions.

Other areas of interest have emerged: Soviet jazz and popular music;36 the role played by music in cultural relations between East and West, especially during the Cold War;37 the relationship of émigrés with the Soviet regime;38 and music of the post-Soviet era.39 Substantial gaps remain, however: apart from the paucity of studies of individual composers and their work, to which allusion was made previously, there is a dearth of research on performers and musicians of other kinds; major cultural institutions; Soviet music education; Soviet musicology and music criticism; and Soviet music theory (despite the promising start made in the latter domain in the 1980s by Gordon McQuere (p.69) and others).40 Important junctures in the annals of Soviet music history also await an adequate account—the condemnation of the country’s leading composers for the vice of ‘formalism’ in 1948 and the ensuing ‘Musicologists’ Affair’ of 1949 being cases in point. At this stage, an attempt to write a comprehensive new history of Soviet music would seem premature, although alternatives to the reference works that are currently available would be welcome. Of those that have appeared since Schwarz’s Music and Musical Life in Soviet Russia, Levon Hakobian’s Music of the Soviet Age: 1917–1987 (1998)41 and the two volumes devoted to the Soviet era in Dorothea Redepenning’s Geschichte der russischen und der sowjetischen Musik (2008) offer genuinely new perspectives and contain valuable discussions of individual musical works. Neither Frans Lemaire’s La musique du XXe siècle en Russie et dans les anciennes Républiques soviétiques (1994) nor Frances Maes’s A History of Russian Music from Kamarinskaya to Babi Yar (2002) presents significant original research, being essentially syntheses of secondary sources; nor do they substantially revise Schwarz’s account. The treatment of Soviet music and musical life is particularly disappointing in the five chapters of Maes’s book that deal with developments after 1917: of major figures, only Shostakovich and Prokofiev are discussed in any detail; and the conspicuous neglect of Russian-language source materials further limits its value.

Apart from the difficulties that have already been discussed, one additional hindrance to achieving a more balanced view of Soviet music and musical life requires consideration here. Russian colleagues complain—with some justice—that Western scholars have been excessively preoccupied with the deleterious effects of political interference (a point made by Marina Rakhmanova in her chapter in the present volume), which results in a rather one-sided perspective and distracts attention from the music itself. I would go even further, and suggest our predominant tendency to view Soviet music under the rubric of ‘totalitarian art’ has caused it to be ghettoised: we listen to it in a different way than to other repertories, and hear even the best of it as overwhelmingly determined by external constraints rather than as an expression of individual creativity and imagination, as though the styles of Soviet composition are inherently ‘unnatural’ or ‘artificial’. But while these styles mostly continued to evince strong continuities with nineteenth-century traditions well into the 1960s (and in some cases even beyond), it is unwarranted to interpret this merely as evidence of the damage wrought by Socialist Realism. Seen in a wider international context, the ‘conservative’ compositional (p.70) idioms prevalent in Soviet music up to then are far from untypical. In Britain, for example, few composers wrote in atonal or dodecaphonic idioms before the late 1940s. The music of prominent figures such as Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872–1958), John Ireland (1879–1962), and Arnold Bax (1883–1953) exhibits little of the radicalism or determined abjuration of the past that the term ‘modernist’ is often understood to denote. Their harmonic languages, though not lacking in asperities, retain a firmly tonal basis; and, in other respects, such as its treatment of rhythm, phrase structure and form, their work clearly grows out of nineteenth-century compositional practice. Similar tendencies can be observed elsewhere. In the United States, Roy Harris, Aaron Copland and Samuel Barber continued to employ tonal idioms throughout the 1930s and 1940s, as did prominent Scandinavian composers such as Vagn Holmboe, Dag Wirén and Lars-Erik Larsson. These examples could easily be multiplied. Far from representing an anomaly, Soviet compositional idioms have far more in common with contemporary Western styles that we have often been prepared to credit.

Western composers who did not cultivate avant-garde styles presumably did so as a matter of personal choice—perhaps because they viewed them with scepticism or because they did not consider them to accord with their creative and expressive needs. For example, Arnold Bax, a leading figure in British musical life of the 1920s and 1930s, remarked in his reminiscences:

I am pretty sure that atonalism as a means of expressing emotional states must be confined to those deriving from the diseases of the soul and body. As manifestations of neurosis in art such works as Schönberg’s Erwartung and Pierrot Lunaire and Berg’s Wozzeck and Lulu are unsurpassed even by the most liverish and kidney-racking scenes in Salome and Elektra; and I should think that the idiom might cope successfully with sexual inhibitions. But it is improbable that healthy and natural things like the coming of spring, young love, or any gay or happy idea can ever be associated with so turgid a medium.42

There is considerable evidence to suggest that a number of Soviet composers held views of a similar nature and that the ‘conservatism’ of their musical language cannot necessarily be attributed wholly to official constraints imposed after 1932, even if some modernists—Shostakovich being a notable case in point—indisputably felt compelled to modify their styles. Yet, even in cases where the stylistic trajectories of Soviet modernists appear to undergo significant change in the 1930s, a straightforward sequence of cause and effect cannot necessarily be presumed to have been operative. I have argued elsewhere that the case of Nikolay Myaskovsky, a centrally important figure in the musical life of this period in his dual role as composer and composition teacher, is particularly complex: his abandonment of the densely dissonant (p.71) chromaticism characteristic of some of the music that he composed in the 1920s evinces parallels with comparable stylistic turns discernible in the outputs of Hindemith, Bartók and other Western composers who chose to explore alternative paths in the 1930s rather than pursue the self-conscious experimentalism of their earlier work. Myaskovsky’s attitude towards new music from the West seems to have become increasingly negative as the 1920s progressed: his correspondence with Prokofiev suggests that he interpreted much of what he heard as being symptomatic of decadence and decline, and as reflecting the influence of dubious fads and fashions. In a letter dating from 1925, well before the advent of Socialist Realism, he opined:

I have formed a pretty dire picture of modern composition in Europe. The triviality and banality of the French and Italians (Ravel, Casella, Malipiero, Milhaud, Auric, Al[eksandr] Cherepnin and so on; even Honegger seems more of a petit maître—look at [King] David); the unbelievable aridity and coarseness of the Germans (Hindemith, [Heinrich] Kaminski, even—Křenek, although he sometimes shows some personality) or the amorphously protoplasmic bloodlessness and beating-about-the-bush of Schoenberg and his litter—you simply do not know where to turn. And then there’s Stravinsky, with his rubbish (has he lapsed into his second childhood?)! I am in a state of complete despair…43

Such remarks are distinctly surprising coming from someone who was effectively the artistic director of the Association for Contemporary Music (ASM) in the 1920s: they are more reminiscent of the oracular pronouncements of nineteenth-century Slavophiles and pochvenniki about Russia’s cultural superiority to the gniloy Zapad (the ‘rotten West’)—a belief which came to constitute a central tenet of national self-envisioning in the Soviet Union. Similar negative views of Western new music can be found in the diaries of Maksimilian Shteynberg and Aleksandr Gol’denveyzer, amongst others. The notion that it constituted a ‘mainstream’ (to recall Schwarz’s epithet) was one that these musicians would have emphatically repudiated, let alone the idea that it furnished a yardstick against which the achievements of contemporary Soviet composers should be judged.

It is also worth remembering that many of the desirable attributes of Socialist Realist art would have been widely endorsed by contemporary Western composers—especially when it came to qualities such as narodnost’ (being national in spirit and having roots in folk art), dostupnost’ (accessibility), konkretnost’ (concreteness) and massovost’ (relevance to the masses). Take, for example, the views of Ralph Vaughan Williams on what he regarded as the obligation of British composers to espouse an analogous narodnost’ and konkretnost’: (p.72)

Every composer cannot expect to have a world-wide message, but he may reasonably expect to have a special message for his own people. … Is it not reasonable to suppose that those who share our life, our history, our customs, our climate, even our food, should have some secret to impart to us which the foreign composer, though he be perhaps more imaginative, more powerful, more technically equipped, is not able to give us? This is the secret of the national composer, the secret to which he only has the key, which no foreigner can share with him and which he alone is able to tell his fellow countrymen.44

Or the following statement by Zoltán Kodály:

The national culture of music of every people rests on a healthy relationship between folk music and composed music. Only the music which has sprung from the ancient musical traditions of a people can reach the masses of the people. A long series of endeavours in Hungarian composed music was unsuccessful because they were not rooted in folk music but tried to imitate various foreign forms. …45

Similarly, a significant number of Western composers felt troubled by the growing alienation of audiences from new music, as notable Soviet commentators such as Boris Asaf’yev had done since the early 1920s; and would have had little difficulty in endorsing—at least in principle—the idea that their work should be broadly accessible. Benjamin Britten, for example, declared that he could

find nothing wrong […] with offering to my fellow-men music which may inspire them or comfort them, which may touch them or entertain them, or even educate them – directly and with intention. On the contrary it is the composer’s duty, as a member of society, to speak to or for his fellow human beings.46

The question of stylistic accessibility was particularly acute in a Soviet context in the 1930s, because composers confronted the challenge of communicating with new mass audiences whose members often had little prior experience of encountering classical music. It is by no means inconceivable that many of them genuinely felt bound to engage seriously with this task, if only because they came from a similar background themselves. (Aram Khachaturian is a good instance in point, being a late starter who only began to study music systematically in his early twenties.) If major Soviet composers of this period were willing to produce a considerable quantity of tuneful music in a lighter vein (a genre that even Shostakovich did not disdain) and arrangements of folk music for popular consumption, so too did many of their eminent Western contemporaries. Throughout his career, Vaughan (p.73) Williams produced light works of genuine distinction alongside his more serious compositions, as well as a considerable quantity of music for amateurs—as did other notable British composers. His attitude to such compositional tasks would have surely met with the approval of even the most doctrinaire Soviet cultural bureaucrat:

Is not folk-song the bond of union where all our musical tastes can meet? We are too apt to divide our music into popular and classical, the highbrow and the lowbrow. One day perhaps we shall find an ideal music which will be neither popular nor classical, highbrow or lowbrow, but an art in which all can take part. […] We must see to it that our art has true vitality and in it the seeds of even greater vitality. And where can we look for a surer proof that our art is living than in music which has for generations voiced the spiritual longings of our race?47

It would seem reasonable to propose that the efforts of some Soviet composers to create a ‘democratic’ art, accessible to a wide segment of the population, may have been motivated by a similar viewpoint, and, for all we know, one that was sincerely held. One crucial difference was that composers living in Western democracies were not expected to affirm any particular ideological standpoint in their work, as their Soviet counterparts were. Yet even in regard of this key issue, responses were far from uniform. At one end of the spectrum, one finds a composer such as Myaskovsky: compositions dealing with explicitly Soviet or ideological themes are conspicuously underrepresented in his output; at the other end, one could instance a figure such as Lev Knipper, who produced a considerable quantity of scores on political and social themes between the 1930s and the 1950s. The attitudes of Soviet composers to writing works on such subjects may have ranged from sincere commitment to cynicism, but it is by no means inconceivable that many regarded this as a social duty which they were bound to discharge in return for the material support and privileges bestowed on them by the state.

In this connection, it is interesting to recall a remarkable passage from Benjamin Britten’s acceptance speech on being presented with the First Aspen Award in Colorado in 1964, in which he contended that British composers should be employed by the state as civil servants—much as their Soviet counterparts were—and that they in return should honour their obligations to society by composing music for a wide range of purposes, including public and official events:

But I think I can tell you some of the things which any artist demands from society. He demands that his art shall be accepted as an essential part of human activity, and human expression; and that he shall be accepted as a genuine practitioner of that art and consequently of value to the community; reasonably, he (p.74) demands from society a secure living and a pension when he has worked long enough; this is a basis for society to offer a musician, a modest basis. In actual fact there are very few musicians in my country who will get a pension after forty years’ work in an orchestra or in an opera house. This must be changed; we must at least be treated as civil servants. Once we have a material status, we can accept the responsibility of answering society’s demands on us. And society should and will demand from us the utmost of our skill and gift in the full range of music making. (Here we come back to ‘occasional’ music.) There should be special music made and played for all sorts of occasions: football matches, receptions, elections (why not?) and even presentation of awards! I would have been delighted to have been greeted with a special piece of music composed for today! It might have turned out to be another piece as good as the cantata Bach wrote for the municipal Election at Mühlhausen, or the Galliard that Dowland wrote as a compliment to the Earl of Essex! Some of the greatest pieces of music in our possession were written for special occasions, grave or gay.48

Unlike the masterpieces to which Britten refers at the close, much of the occasional music produced by Soviet composers (such as the routine tributes to Lenin and commemorations of the October Revolution) may have been undistinguished—a circumstance acknowledged even by Soviet commentators.49 But then, it would not be difficult to think of comparably dull occasional works by their Western counterparts. It is easy to overlook the simple fact that composers have to make a living and sometimes find themselves obliged to accept commissions in which they have little interest.

A few closing remarks. In raising these issues, I have no wish to minimise the very considerable difficulties with which Soviet composers had to contend, or to suggest that they were unaffected by external pressures. I am merely suggesting that the time has perhaps come to try to place these pressures in greater perspective. Impending reassessments of Soviet musical life (and especially during its pre-Thaw phases) could gain much by viewing Soviet composition in a wider international context: its characteristic traits would almost certainly appear more normalised, rather than being peculiar to the USSR. Above all, they should attempt to initiate a more sustained engagement with Soviet compositions as artworks, lending due weight to the technical competence, imaginative inventiveness and individuality of their creators, rather than construing them principally in terms of externally imposed constraints on freedom of expression.


Proceedings of the British Academy, 209, 51–74. © The British Academy 2017.

(1) Detlef Gojowy, ‘Sinowi Borissowitsch im Keller entdeckt: Sowjetische Musikwissenschaft in der Perestrojka’, Das Orchester, 11 (1991), 1242–5 at 1244.

(2) This information was recorded by Ol’ga Lamm in her memoir of her stepdaughter Pavel Lamm, a close friend of Myaskovsky: ‘Pavel Aleksandrovich Lamm: Opït biografii’, VMOMK, f. 192, yed. khr. 361, l. 399.

(3) See Vera Vasina-Grossman, ‘Professiya—istorik’, Muzïkal’naya zhizn’, 16 (1988), 8. The collection in question is Gavriil Popov, Iz literaturnogo naslediya: stranitsï biografii, ed. Zarui Apetyan (Moscow, Sovetskiy kompozitor, 1986).

(4) Especially his Zhizn’ Sergeya Prokof’yeva (Moscow, Sovetskiy kompozitor, 1973).

(5) Sofya Khentova, Shostakovich: zhizn’ i tvorchestvo, 2 vols (Leningrad, Sovetskiy kompozitor, 1985–1986).

(6) Laurel Fay, Shostakovich: A Life (New York, Oxford University Press, 2000), p. 3. Many of these inaccuracies remained uncorrected in the second edition of 1996: ibid., n5, p. 289.

(7) Tamara Livanova, N. Ya. Myaskovskiy: tvorcheskiy put’ (Moscow, Gosudarstvennoye muzïkal’noye izdatel’stvo, 1953). Livanova’s book was written in the wake of her condemnation in 1949, discussed in Olga Manulkina’s contribution to the present volume. It elicited a scathing co-authored review from Shostakovich and Kabalevsky, which pointed out elementary howlers in Livanova’s analytical accounts of Myaskovsky’s compositions and cast doubt on her professional competence: see Dmitriy Kabalevskiy and Dmitriy Shostakovich, ‘Kniga o N. Myaskovskom’, Sovetskaya muzïka, 7 (1954), 99–108. Myaskovsky’s student Igor’ Bėlza recalled that it was widely regarded as a shameful production: see his essay ‘O. T. I. Livanovoy—uchyonom i cheloveke’, in Devil’ Arutyunov and Vladimir Protopopov (eds.), T. I. Livanova: stat’i, vospominaniya (Moscow: Muzïka, 1989), p. 298.

(8) In this connection, see, for example, Pauline Fairclough, ‘The “Old Shostakovich”: Reception in the British Press’, Music and Letters, 2 (2007), 266–96.

(9) Juri Jelagin [Yuriy Yelagin], Taming of the Arts, trans. Nicholas Wreden (New York, Dutton, 1951); and Andrey Olkhovsky, Music under the Soviets: The Agony of an Art (London, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1955).

(10) Theodor W. Adorno, Aesthetic Theory, ed. Gretel Adorno and Rolf Tiedemann, newly translated, edited and with a translator’s introduction by Robert Hullot-Kentor (Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 1997), pp. 53, 254.

(11) Quoted in Mark Carroll, Music and Ideology in Cold War Europe (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2003), p. 8.

(12) Quoted in Ian Wellens, Music on the Frontline: Nicolas Nabokov’s Struggle against Communism and Middlebrow Culture (Aldershot, Ashgate, 2002), p. 34.

(13) Stanley Dale Krebs, Soviet Composers and the Development of Soviet Music (London, George Allen and Unwin, 1970), pp. 234, 268.

(14) For a discussion, see Patrick Zuk, ‘Nikolay Myaskovsky and the “Regimentation” of Soviet Composition: A Reassessment’, Journal of Musicology, 3 (2014), 354–93.

(15) Boris Schwarz, Music and Musical Life in Soviet Russia: 1917–1981 (Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1983), p. 135.

(16) For a lucid summary of the controversies aroused by Solomon Volkov’s Testimony, see the Introduction to Richard Taruskin, On Russian Music (Berkeley, University of California Press, 2008), pp. 16–21; and the essay in the same volume, ‘Casting a Great Composer as a Fictional Hero’, pp. 322–8.

(17) See Marina Frolova-Walker, ‘“Music is Obscure”: Textless Soviet Works and their Phantom Programmes’, in Joshua Walden (ed.), Representation in Western Music (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2013), pp. 47–63; and Richard Taruskin, ‘Public Lies and Unspeakable Truth: Interpreting Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony’, in David Fanning (ed.), Shostakovich Studies (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1995), pp. 17–48 at 52–3.

(18) Dmitriy Kabalevskiy, ‘Dve simfonii (5-ya Prokof’yeva, 5-ya Shostakovicha)’, Programmï Moskovskoy gosudarstvennoy filarmonii, 3 marta 1945 g., RGALI, f. 1929, op. 1, yed. khr. 906, ll. 6–10 at 8bis; and Ian MacDonald, The New Shostakovich (London, Fourth Estate, 1990), p. 129.

(19) Peter Schmelz advocates using this epithet rather than the more customary ‘dissident’ or ‘avant-garde’, which he deems unsatisfactory for various reasons: see his study Such Freedom, If Only Musical: Unofficial Soviet Music during the Thaw (New York, Oxford University Press, 2009), pp. 20–1.

(20) Alexander Ivashkin, Alfred Schnittke (London, Phaidon, 1996); and idem, A Schnittke Reader (Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 2002); Paul Hillier, Arvo Pärt (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1997); Michael Kurtz, Sofia Gubaidulina: A Biography (Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 2007).

(21) See Svetlana Savenko, ‘Interpretatsiya idey avangarda v poslevoyennoy muzïke’, in V. Tsenova et al. (eds.), Muzïka XX veka. Moskovskiy forum: materialï medzdunarodnikh nauchnïkh konferentsiy (Moscow, Moskovskaya gosudarstvennaya konservatoriia im. P.I. Chaykovskogo, 1999), pp. 33–7.

(22) A similar point is made by Richard Taruskin in his essay ‘The Birth of Contemporary Russia out of the Spirit of Russian Music’, Muzikologija (Journal of the Institute of Musicology of the Serbian Academy of Sciences, Belgrade), 6 (2006), 63–76.

(23) David Fanning, The Breath of The Symphonist: Shostakovich’s Tenth (London, Royal Musical Association, 1988). On Fanning’s initiative, substantial analytical essays by Patrick McCreless, Ellon Carpenter and others were included in the first major English-language collection of essays on Shostakovich after glasnost’: David Fanning (ed.), Shostakovich Studies (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1995).

(24) Respectively, Musorgsky: Eight Essays and an Epilogue (Princeton NJ, Princeton University Press, 1992); and Stravinsky and the Russian Traditions: A Biography of the Works through Mavra (Berkeley, University of California Press, 1996).

(25) In addition to the 1995 collection edited by David Fanning (referred to in footnote 23), see, for example: Rosamund Bartlett (ed.), Shostakovich in Context (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2000); Malcolm Brown (ed.), A Shostakovich Casebook (Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 2004); Laurel Fay (ed.), Shostakovich and His World (Princeton NJ, Princeton University Press, 2004); Pauline Fairclough and David Fanning (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Shostakovich (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2008); Pauline Fairclough (ed.), Shostakovich Studies 2 (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2010).

(26) Pauline Fairclough, A Soviet Credo: Shostakovich’s Fourth Symphony (Aldershot, Ashgate, 2006).

(27) Judith Kuhn, Shostakovich in Dialogue: Form, Imagery and Ideas in Quartets 1–7 (Farnham, Ashgate, 2010); Michael Rofe, Dimensions of Energy in Shostakovich’s Symphonies (Burlington VT, Ashgate, 2012); Joan Titus, The Early Film Music of Dmitry Shostakovich (New York, Oxford University Press, 2016).

(28) See, for example, Stephen Press, Prokofiev’s Ballets for Diaghilev (Farnham, Ashgate, 2006); Sigrid Neef, Die Opern Sergej Prokofjews (Berlin, Ernst Kuhn, 2009); Kevin Bartig, Composing for the Red Screen: Prokofiev and Soviet Film (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2013). Notable analytical studies of Prokofiev’s music have been produced by Neil Minturn (his monograph The Music of Sergei Prokofiev (New Haven CT, Yale University Press, 1997) remains a foundational text) and Deborah Rifkin, amongst others.

(29) Boris Asafyev, Symphonic Etudes: Portraits of Russian Operas and Ballets, ed. and trans. David Haas (Lanham MD, Scarecrow Press, 2008).

(30) Sergey Prokofiev, Sergey Prokofiev Diaries, 1915–1923: Behind the Mask, trans. Anthony Phillips (Ithaca NY, Cornell University Press, 2008); and idem, Sergey Prokofiev Diaries, 1924–1933: Prodigal Son, trans. Anthony Phillips (London, Faber, 2012).

(31) Marina Frolova-Walker and Jonathan Walker, Music and Soviet Power: 1917–1932 (Woodbridge, Boydell and Brewer, 2012).

(32) Leonid Maksimenkov (ed.), Muzïka vmesto sumbura: kompozitorï i muzïkantï v strane Sovetov, 1917–1991 (Moscow, Mezhdunarodnïy fond ‘Demokratiya’, 2013).

(33) See, for example, the preface to Matthew Cullerne Bown’s thought-provoking study Socialist Realist Painting (New Haven CT, Yale University Press, 1998), pp. xi–xviii.

(34) Simo Mikkonen, Music and Power in the Soviet 1930s: A History of Composers’ Bureaucracy (Lewiston NY, Edwin Mellen Press, 2009); and Meri Herrala, The Struggle for Control of Soviet Music from 1932 to 1948: Socialist Realism vs. Western Formalism (Lewiston NY, Edwin Mellen Press, 2012).

(35) Marina Frolova-Walker, ‘The Glib, the Bland, and the Corny: An Aesthetic of Socialist Realism’, in Roberto Illiano and Massimiliano Sala (eds.), Music and Dictatorship in Europe and Latin America (Turnhout and New York, Brepols, 2009), pp. 421–2.

(36) Beginning with the major study by S. Frederick Starr, Red and Hot: The Fate of Jazz in the Soviet Union, 1917–1991 (New York, Limelight Editions, 1994).

(37) See, for instance, Kiril Tomoff, Virtuosi Abroad: Soviet Music and Imperial Competition during the Early Cold War, 1945–1958 (Ithaca NY, Cornell University Press, 2015).

(38) Nicolas Nabokov, to take just one example, has been the subject of another recent important study: Vincent Giroud, Nicolas Nabokov: A Life in Freedom and Music (New York, Oxford University Press, 2015).

(39) See the contributions by Elena Dubinets, William Quillen and Lidia Ader in the present volume.

(40) See Gordon McQuere, Russian Theoretical Thought in Music (Ann Arbor MI, UMI, 1983).

(41) Recently reissued in a substantially revised edition by Routledge in 2017.

(42) Arnold Bax, Farewell, My Youth (London, Longmans, 1943), p. 63.

(43) Miral’da Kozlova et al. (eds.), S. S. Prokof’yev i N. Ya. Myaskovskiy: Perepiska (Moscow, Sovetskiy kompozitor, 1977), p. 219.

(44) Ralph Vaughan Williams, National Music and Other Essays (London, Oxford University Press, 1972 [1963]), p. 9.

(45) Zoltán Kodály, The Selected Writings of Zoltán Kodály (London, Boosey and Hawkes, 1974), p. 222.

(46) Benjamin Britten, On Receiving the First Aspen Award (London, Faber Music, 1977 [1964]), p. 12.

(49) See, for example, the remarks by Georgiy Khubov on the generally disappointing quality of Soviet cantatas in his article ‘Muzïka i sovremennost’: O zadachakh razvitiya sovetskoy muzïki’, Sovetskaya muzïka, 4 (1953), 16–22 at 17ff.