Book Reviews 35

The Conductor

Shostakovich: Violin Concerto No. 1 Op. 77

Music For Silenced Voices: Shostakovich and his Fifteen Quartets

Shostakovich Studies 2

35_Quigley /

The Conductor
Sarah Quigley
Vintage NZ
ISBN 978 1 86979 506 1
303 pages

The story of the first Leningrad performance of the symphony that shares its name is good material for a narrative, whether fictional or documentary. Sarah Quigley, a New Zealand novelist resident in Berlin, has chosen to make it the subject of her fourth novel.

The conductor in question is Karl Eliasberg (generally called Elias), in charge of the Leningrad Radio Orchestra. As Quigley notes, little historical detail is readily available about him, so she has used a novelist’s licence to give him a backstory, including a querulous, ailing mother who keeps him under her thumb. (Quigley also notes that she has ‘chosen to depict the [symphony] as a direct response to the invasion of Leningrad for purely novelistic reasons’.) Other key characters are Nikolai Nikolayev, a widowed violinist, his daughter (who is presented as mildly autistic), and the ballerina Nina Bronnikova who, it is implied, becomes Elias’ wife.

Towards the end of the novel, the story concentrates on these key characters, and culminates in Elias about to cue the opening chords of the historic performance. But this is necessarily a novel in which the number of characters declines as the story progresses. Shostakovich and his family are present for about three-quarters of the book, with Sollertinsky bailing out around the mid-point.

It is somewhat difficult to review the book while knowing a fair deal about Shostakovich. The temptation to point at a paragraph and cry: ‘Look! Research!’ is ever-present. But most of it is fairly seamlessly woven into the structure. The exception is the use of Fleischmann and Rothschild’s Violin which feels rather gratuitous on each appearance, however poignant it is in terms of the storyline.

The key issue, though, is the character of Shostakovich – does it ring true? I’m not 100% convinced. Quigley does paint a clear picture in the eyes of the other characters – just the right degree of awe at the uniqueness of the individual in their midst, without it tipping over into unconditional adulation. But I missed a sense of Shostakovich’s nervous energy – there’s certainly the intensity of a man driven to compose every day, but it doesn’t spill over into his interactions with others. There’s also a little too much about the Shostakoviches’ marital strife. This does ebb somewhat as the book proceeds – it may have been the privations of the siege, but I also felt that perhaps the author had decided that there was only so much to be mined from that seam.

Familiarity with the subject matter can lead one to look more closely at the structure. Twice the plot is advanced by having a character burst in unexpectedly, crying: ‘Haven’t you heard? X has happened.’ It’s not so much that it happens twice – rather that the two instances occur in short order (as indeed did the two examples of X involved). And Sollertinsky’s eve-of-departure party, attended by the remnants of the Leningrad intelligentsia, is a well-worn device. But, then again, such things are clichés because they express something valid. And there’s nothing quite as wince-inducing as that moment in the film of Testimony when Galina points out that the D-S-C-H motif is Daddy’s name.

To some extent, the clichés perform a different function. Just as the Eleventh Symphony tends to the cinematographic, so this novel is often filmic. The chapters are scenes, generally short and punchy, and they use situation and location in a very visual fashion.

The book comes with a CD of the symphony tucked in the back. It’s the Naxos release with the Russian Philharmonic under Yablonsky. I recommend listening to it about three-quarters of the way through, just to drive home the inherent implausibility of these characters being able to lift their instruments, let alone play the Leningrad.

The book is called The Conductor because it focuses on Elias and his development. If the portrait of Shostakovich is not quite what this reviewer would desire, this does detract from the successful depiction of the central character caught up in a uniquely testing sequence of events.

Paul Henderson

24_new collected /

Shostakovich Violin Concerto No. 1, opus 77
Edited by Manashir Yakubov.
New collected works of Dmitri Shostakovich. Vol. 42. Full Score.
192 pages, Hardcover
ISBN 979-0-706364-14-8
EAN: 9790706364148

Volume 42 of the New Collected Works by Moscow-based DSCH Publishers – and a new edition of the Concerto of which every admirer of this piece should be aware. As elsewhere in this series Monashir Yakubov contributes a detailed essay plotting the genesis and the history of the work’s emergence onto the world stage, in addition to which a fragment of the original version (finale) of the score with Yakubov’s commentary can also be found.

Here are a couple of extracts from the essay: “How Dmitri Shostakovich’s Violin Concerto No 1 was composed”:

“Back in the mid-1930s, he [Shostakovich] mentioned the violin concerto among the new works he was intending to compose, which included a suite for the French horn, a string quartet and a composition for a jazz orchestra………..”

“But in 1940, Three Pieces for Violin Solo opus 59 appeared, a completely unknown composition that was never performed and subsequently disappeared without trace…………”

Isaac Glikman’s diary contains valuable information regarding this work, and Journal readers should be excited at the prospect of it currently being prepared for publication by O. G. Digonskaya [see also reference to the diary in Orango – in this edition –Ed.] Digonskaya brought Glikman’s diary to Yakubov’s attention and gave permission to quote some pieces for this score. For example:

4 August 1945 and Shostakovich emits reservations about the concerto:

“May be it would be better to do a sonata”? (Glikman’s Diary)

Elsewhere, David Oistrakh relates how difficult to play the First Concerto was, admitting: “on several occasions I did not understand the music”.

Conductor Kirill Kondrashin was even more frank about his aversion to the Concerto and even Mravinsky was not charmed by the work.

In this edition, the re-instrumentation of the beginning of the Finale with the transfer of the main theme of the “Burlesca” from the solo violin to the orchestra is presented along with a fragment (29 bars) of the original version of the opening of the Finale for violin solo. In this version, after the intensity of the cadenza the violinist here launches into the finale without a break. Different stories exist regarding these two versions. According Manashir Yakubov: “….In my view the fact that he wanted to send the score abroad shows the composer’s desire to retain the original version of the instrumentation as the main one.”

In volume 42, the fragment of “Burlesca” is reproduced from the first edition of the score, without the aforementioned break.

The book is hard-bound, dark blue from the outside with golden inscription of the title. The paper and binding are of excellent quality.

Henny van der Groep

35_Lesser /

Music For Silenced Voices: Shostakovich and his Fifteen Quartets
Wendy Lesser
Yale University Press, 2011
368 pages. 1 b/w illustration
ISBN 9780300169331

Dmitri Shostakovich’s monumental cycle of fifteen string quartets, composed between 1938 and 1974 over the greater part of a spectacularly eventful career, comprises among other things an extraordinary self-portrait in music. With their ambiguities, their internal and external references, their disarming candour, the quartets lend themselves to interpretations beyond the category of pure music. If one listens closely, one can almost hear in each of them a kind of “diary of the soul”, a music infused with passions too viscerally felt for them to be divorced from events in the life of the man who composed them. Such is the framework of Wendy Lesser’s Music for Silenced Voices, an appreciative survey of this challenging body of work that tells the story of Shostakovich’s life seen through its variegated lens.

This ambitious study has been undertaken, surprisingly enough, by an author who early on in the book admits that she is a non-musician and, by implication, that she is a relative newcomer to the music itself. As the founding editor of the arts journal Threepenny Review, and as the award-winning author of eight previous books, she brings to the present work a predominantly literary perspective, with all the profits and pitfalls those associations entail. Yet Lesser turns her status as an outsider looking in into an asset, since she exempts herself from having to conform to the obligations of formal musical analysis.

Music For Silenced Voices, which is thus far the only book-length study that systematically addresses the quartets, divides into six chapters entitled ‘Elegy’, ‘Serenade’, ‘Intermezzo’, ‘Nocturne’, ‘Funeral March’, and ‘Epilogue’. Devotees will immediately recognise these as the movement titles of the composer’s fifteenth and last quartet. The quartets themselves are dealt with in chronological order, and Lesser does them each justice, one movement at a time. She also uses each quartet, and this seems to be the book’s overarching theme, as a point of departure to contemplate one or another facet of the man, the artist, and the individuals to whom the music is dedicated.

Case in point, Quartet No. 2 becomes the focus of a discussion of Ivan Sollertinsky, the formidable intellectual who exerted a profound influence on the composer in his early years. Two major works followed on the heels of Sollertinsky’s sudden death in 1944, the Second Piano Trio, which is dedicated to Sollertinsky, and Quartet No. 2. Though the latter is dedicated to Vissarion Shebalin, Lesser hears it as a musical portrait of Sollertinsky, down to the vocalisations of the man, himself, as embodied in the music’s “strong voice, capable of snappy retorts and enlightening observations”; and in the “Mahlerian waltz” of the third movement, a presumed reference to Sollertinsky’s having introduced Shostakovich to the music of Gustav Mahler. In her fleshing out of Sollertinsky’s character, his close relationship with Shostakovich, and the profound impact that his death had on the composer, Lesser’s view of the music becomes almost plausible.

She describes a performance of Quartet No. 3, twenty years after its composition, by the Beethoven Quartet that Shostakovich attended and which caused him to break down in tears. Lesser speculates, rather poetically, that ‘those tears were a response, in part, to the musically induced collapsing of time, so that for the sixty-year-old composer, the present and the past – the life that had actually been lived, and the life that had been imagined – were for once brought forcibly together.’ Taking cues from a set of movement subtitles of questionable origin and from the music itself, she suggests an unusually explicit narrative for the five-movement work. ‘The first movement … seems to be about childhood’; ‘if the second movement contained the intimations of war, then [the third movement] is war itself’; ‘In the Adagio fourth movement, we are dead’; the fifth movement ‘is trying out life again, after having been dead’, or perhaps a reference to ‘the way memory, with its hauntings, can produce a kind of afterlife.’

In these and other musical discussions throughout the book, we find a literalness that is reminiscent of Ian MacDonald’s wildly speculative musical exegeses in The New Shostakovich. Yet rather than the attempt to coerce an explicit agenda of hidden musical codes within a broadly rendered historical context, as we find in MacDonald’s work, Lesser, with much skill and sensitivity, incorporates into her musical discussions a rich tapestry of contemporaneous events in the composer’s personal life, which the music is seen directly mirroring; again, the theme of the quartets as a musical diary. As such, her literal interpretations are more or less coaxed into the realm of credibility. At the same time she cautions herself about Shostakovich’s well-known antipathy toward such biographical associations with his music.

Writing about Quartet No. 4, Lesser dwells on the roles of song and dance in Shostakovich’s music. She sees the composer’s move toward the ‘forbidden’ territory of abstraction in Quartet No. 5 as an act of bravery, a kind of ’implicit resistance, even if of a determinedly apolitical sort.’ She sees silence as the work’s ‘deepest and most prominent element’, even though the only time that the four instruments are not playing all together is in the final bars of the score. Lesser describes the listening experience as one of waiting through the work’s sustained level of tension for the silence embodied in the quartet’s quiet but powerful resolution. It is but one of many places throughout the book where the element of silence turns up as a unifying theme.

The quote in Quartet No. 5 of a theme from Galina Ustvolskaya’s Clarinet Trio prompts Lesser to mention Shostakovich’s affair with his former student. However, she erroneously states that the theme is repeatedly quoted in the quartet’s second movement, when, in fact, that is the only movement in which the theme does not appear – it emerges as a recitative in the first and third movements only. From here, Lesser launches into the sticky business of Shostakovich’s relationships with women, including his other extramarital dalliances. She looks into his unsettled first marriage to Nina Varzar, plagued as it was by the secret liaisons of both parties. The circumstances surrounding Nina’s death in 1954 and its effect on Shostakovich are dealt with in detail. Lesser explains the long fallow period that followed the death and the precarious happiness expressed in Quartet No. 6 (1956) in light of that tragedy. Lesser also sees that quartet, finished one month after his second marriage to the much younger Margarita Kainova, fused with the mixed emotions he felt about that short-lived and somewhat mysterious partnership.

One of Shostakovich’s major errors in judgment, as he himself saw it, was the concession to join the Communist Party in 1960. Lesser deals with his tortured response as an extension of her discussion of the autobiographical Quartet No. 8. In the fourth movement she senses Shostakovich ‘trying to drown out noisy externality with quiet internality, as if, in the battle between loud intrusiveness and gentle reflectiveness, the internal forces might actually win.’ She notes that in the Quartet’s final bars, ‘what we are being offered is not consolation or redemption, but companionship.’

Some of Lesser’s most poignant passages are found in her discussions of Quartet Numbers 11 through 14, each of which is dedicated to one or another member of the ensemble that, over the course of a lifetime, remained the leading champion of Shostakovich’s work in the genre, the Beethoven Quartet. She includes enough biographical and anecdotal information to put a human face on each of the dedicatees while drawing relevant connections to the music. About Quartet No. 11, dedicated to the then recently deceased second violinist, the ‘foundation stone and hidden leader’ of the group, she writes that it is ‘Shostakovich’s least tuneful quartet, as if melody itself had gone out of the world when Vasily Shirinsky left it.’ She extends the observation, quite aptly, to the contemporaneous Second Violin Concerto, in which she finds the same ‘fractured, distressed, forsaken feeling’. Continuing, Lesser writes, ‘In accord with the sense of overwhelming meaninglessness, many of the quartet’s seven named sections convey the opposite of what they promise’, i.e. a Scherzo that is neither happy nor light, a Humoresque that could not be less amusing, a Recitative that is far from imitating the sound of a human voice. She delves into the score one section at a time, referring to it as ‘Beckett-like in its modernism’ and ‘Shakespearian in the grandeur of its self-renunciation’.

Lesser characterises the changing complexions of Shostakovich’s music in the later quartets with insight and well-turned phrases. ‘[D]espite its aspect of quotidian reassurances, despite its circularities and reminiscences, despite its deep companionableness, [Quartet No. 10] also feels like the last of its kind. Something has ended here, not just for today but for good.’ She points out the shifting emphases in each of the later quartets. She sees Quartet No. 12 as a response to the breakdown of structure in Quartet No. 11 in that it ‘embodies a fierce attempt to create some kind of new order out of that chaotic disintegration.’ She takes particular interest in the tone rows and in the history and applications of the col legno technique as they appear in Quartet No. 13. In Quartet No. 14 she finds that Shostakovich’s relationship to melody has been altered by his recent ‘discordant phase’, referring to Quartet No. 13 and Symphony No. 14. In Quartet No. 14 she observes that ‘melody has to be rediscovered, almost reinvented note by note, and the resulting tunefulness is cautious, guarded, liable to sudden disappearance, and only briefly… sublimely beautiful.’

The broader generalisations that Lesser reaches for in the final chapter, ‘Epilogue’, are just as compelling. She fields opinion from a wide range of interviewees, including Maxim Shostakovich, Ignaz Solzhenitsyn, and various members of contemporary string quartet ensembles, on a variety of issues: how listeners and musicians respond to Shostakovich’s string quartets; their interpretation and technical details; their literary suggestiveness; matters of ‘truth’, meaning, humour, and interestingly enough, the aspect of ‘shame’ – as opposed to ‘humility’ – in Shostakovich’s music; and finally, a last contemplation on the titular concept of silence as it pertains to this repertoire.

Lesser offers engaging and provocative ideas here and throughout the book. Still, readers will find some of her musical discussions a bit naive, even awkward, mostly in her use of explicitly literal or associative musical descriptors. For example, she likens the ‘braying chords’ in the second movement of Quartet No. 10 to ‘a donkey’s hee-haw or a train’s double whistle, depending on which instrument plays them’. Her remarks comparing the performances of the quartets by various ensembles are similarly facile. By allowing herself the occasional childish allusion, and by keeping the technical language to a minimum, she situates and sustains her perspective as a non-musician, and seems to be proudly reminding us that it is her aerial view that gives her book its unique virtues.

Lesser has clearly done her homework. She selects a fairly wide range of ensembles as reference points for performance. She includes the acknowledged standards, the Beethovens, the Borodins, and the Fitzwilliams, as well as selections from a more recent generation of performers: the Emersons, the Alexanders, and the Vertigos. In between her eloquent contemplations, she weaves the narrative of Shostakovich’s life with an impressive richness of detail. She fluently draws from a wide array of references, including the biographical mainstays by Laurel Fay and Elizabeth Wilson; the Glikman letters; other scholarly sources; and interviews she personally conducted with Irina and Maxim Shostakovich, Kurt Sanderling, and a host of other musicians who knew or regularly perform Shostakovich’s music. She also ties into her narrative abundant references to Russian and Western literature.

Throughout the book Lesser casts a sympathetic spotlight on the human dimension of Shostakovich. What emerges is a portrait of the person rendered from the inside out, as it were, a summoning of the living essence that lies beneath the historical figure, an effort to place flesh and bones on the notes of the music and correspondingly, to connect the music directly to the life lived. Lesser almost has us travelling in Shostakovich’s footsteps as she provides the exact street addresses of each of his dwellings and a detailed description of the furnishings at those addresses.

Referring to Stalin’s notorious cultural bulldog, Andre Zhdanov, Lesser half whimsically writes, ‘There is something Zhdanov-like in my desire to root around in Shostakovich’s mind, seeking out the private meanings behind the compositions and performances.’ Lesser’s survey does not so much lend itself to a psychological portrait as it does to a reanimation of the composer through the journey of his string quartets. From her book, Shostakovich emerges as a living breathing human being, prone to errors in judgment, drawn to failed relationships, victim of heartbreaking losses, capable of humanitarian gestures, and not least, the genius composer of music for the ages. Music for Silenced Voices, in its poetic and very readable way, offers an eloquent appraisal of the man and his music.

Louis Blois

35_Fairclough /

Shostakovich Studies 2
Pauline Fairclough (editor)
321 pages
Cambridge University Press, 2010
ISBN 9780521111188

While some symposia, such as the Cambridge and Greenwood Companions, hope that their individual chapters will, together, prove relatively comprehensive, others – including this second volume of Shostakovich Studies – are happy to pick and choose areas of coverage. In this case the book is divided into three parts: ‘Archival Studies’, ‘Analysis’ and ‘Interpretation and Context’.

The slew of archival discoveries makes this a great time for Shostakovichians and the first part of this book – comprising three articles – is particularly reliant upon them, making them among the most valuable. The late 1920s and early 1930s were tumultuous times for Shostakovich: he often composed several pieces simultaneously and over lengthy periods. Olga Digonskaya unpicks the history in Shostakovich’s Opera ‘Orango’: History and Context and Shostakovich’s First Opus (Dating the ‘Scherzo’, opus 1). The chronology can be intractable and it has to be said that Digonskaya occasionally (and understandably) struggles to clarify the various strands as Shostakovich began works, changed his mind, worked on them intermittently and sometimes abandoned them altogether. But it is hard to see how it could be otherwise and in a sense it does reflect the headlong rush of his career at that time.

Olga Dombrovskaya’s Notes on Shostakovich’s Diary reveals some of the entries in this recently published record of events. It was an aide-memoire for future events, not a reflection on the past but though its details are scant there are still many points of interest and, particularly in association with other sources, helps clarify the basic facts of Shostakovich’s life. These are among the book’s most fascinating contributions: few people will be fortunate enough to penetrate the archives with this degree of depth and our understanding of the composer is hugely advanced by them. Not only are they revelatory in themselves but they prepare the ground for others to build on. In the meantime, Digonskaya and Dombrovskaya are shaping up as the best candidates for the next biography of the composer.

The book’s middle panel: ‘Analysis and Interpretation’ comprises five chapters taking different approaches to a range over different genres.

I don’t think I’m sticking my neck out too far to say that in Shostakovich and Structural Hearing, David Fanning is the first critic to liken the opening of the Sixth Symphony to a pizza (though perhaps the metaphor has been applied to Vivaldi?) It is a fascinating attempt to buck the trend by using Schenkerian analysis and its descendents on some of Shostakovich’s middle-period works. As so often with this writer, the musicology leads us to deeper questions and, in a sense, one of the key issues is what it is that makes one piece of music ‘good’, when another very similar one is judged not to be. As Fanning admits, paradoxically, such analyses may struggle to ‘prove’ quality, but they remain a vital tool.

The film music is, thankfully, coming out of the shadows and Joan Titus’ Socialist Realism, Modernism and Shostakovich’s ‘Alone’ is a welcome contribution. For musicologists Alone will always be the most appealing of the early Soviet sound films, as it has – pace David Fanning’s chapter – the ‘best’ music: other films’ scores are less interesting but they have equally (or even more) daring soundscapes though they are not easy to analyse given the tools currently at our disposal. Titus’ contribution hovers on the borders of archival research and in building her argument she chooses to ignore most contemporary writers on the film. Nevertheless, this is an effective analysis of how the mosaic structure of leit-motifs and ‘leit-textures’ help bind the film together, and how it might relate to the politics of the day. As to the makers’ political intention; Titus prefers to quote Kozintsev, who later claimed the film was parodistic, but Trauberg quite late in life rebutted Romm’s accusations of opportunism, saying that their work at this time was honestly meant.

The biggest chapter – nearly seventy pages – is Patrick McCreless’ Shostakovich’s Politics of D minor and its Neighbours, 1931-1949. With barely a by-your-leave, McCreless plunges into the passacaglia from Lady Macbeth and the tension between D minor and the C sharp minor in which it starts and ends, which he argues will become a tonal trope over the next eighteen years, in works including the Opus 34 Preludes, the Cello Sonata, the Symphonies numbers 4 and 5, the Pushkin songs (particularly useful given the presence of a text), and, noting the telling decade break, a return to the key after the 1948 denunciation with the Fourth String Quartet. Though some later works feature the key, the ‘D-minor-and-its-neighbours’ trope disappears perhaps to be replaced by the famous DSCH monogram.

Slightly problematically, he has to start by arguing that the Passacaglia is actually in D minor, rather than the C minor that many prefer. But, paradoxically, looking backwards from later works his case becomes stronger as he finds other elements in common. McCreless then argues that D minor is often a key of Shostakovich’s persecution by the authorities, but he is quick to point out that this is not a quality of the key itself or even a association that Shostakovich assigned to it, but that the tension between it and C sharp minor has an associative meaning for him derived from the opera’s persecution.

He finishes with brief thoughts about F sharp minor: with David Haas’ study of Shostakovich’s C minor and Fanning’s examination of C major, perhaps one day we’ll have a series of 24 essays covering Shostakovich and all the major and minor keys.

Kristian Hibberd’s Shostakovich and ‘Polyphonic’ Creativity: the Fourteenth Symphony Revisited looks at the work in the light of Bakhtin’s theories of polyphony and the relationship of the ‘author’ to the ‘text’. This, Hibberd argues, explains its highly unusual form and Shostakovich’s uncertainly about how to describe it: initially he called it an oratorio. For Bakhtin, the author’s dialogue with the text can mean that the work develops page-by-page rather than following a pre-determined plan. Hibberd thus meets head-on Hakobian’s idea of the symphony as a secret Requiem and Roseberry’s view of it as an extremely altered traditional symphonic form. Both seem to want to ‘normalise’ the symphony, perhaps taking as their cue Shostakovich’s description of it as an, albeit undefined, traditional four-movement symphonic structure. Hibberd’s revealing approach tries, like Bakhtin, to analyse the work ‘as it goes along’, thus explaining its non-traditional form.

Philip Ross Bullock’s The Poet’s Echo, the Composer’s Voice: Monologic Verse or Dialogic Song continues the Bakhtinian analysis, applying it to the songs and their texts. Initially, this might seem doubly odd as, not only is there little evidence of the theorist’s direct influence on Shostakovich, but Bakhtin was quite dismissive of poetry. But there is nothing to stop theories being applied outside the periods and cultures where they were generated and to works whose creators are ignorant of those theoretical frameworks. So we can use Bakhtin’s ideas on Shostakovich and modified Schenkerian studies of post-Schenker compositions, just as Russian Formalists studied Tristram Shandy.

Shostakovich’s choices of text are fascinating and Bullock probes their relationship to the composer himself and his
relationship to their authors. Composers are often seen as aligning themselves with the poets they set or the characters in whose mouths the words have been put. But these self-projections can sometimes stretch a point: for all Shostakovich’s philosemitism, the verses of From Jewish Folk Poetry take a variety of personae, most very different from him. Moreover, given his cultural status from the 1960s onwards, could Shostakovich justifiably align himself with Akhmatova, Tsvetayeva or Solzhenitsyn? Shostakovich’s consciousness of his image and legacy have come in for more study recently and this is a useful consideration of how, consciously or not, he used one genre in furtherance of his aims.

The final section includes three chapters that set Shostakovich’s work in its historical context at several periods in his life, though in many ways two of them mirror the opening section by drawing on archival sources.

Simo Mikkonen’s ‘Muddle instead of Music’ in 1936: Cataclysm of Musical Administration charts the background to the events of 1936. This chapter peers behind the obscuring layers of bureaucracy and charts the shifting sands of newly-defined Socialist Realism and the alliances that were formed and dissolved in reaction to the ongoing political-aesthetic changes. Shostakovich’s prominence made him a central figure and even when he wasn’t directly involved, he was always in some ways present. Nevertheless Mikkonen argues that the Pravda editorials were not intended to cause serious damage and that even afterwards he was not in mortal danger. Mikkonen seems to see Shostakovich as collateral damage in a struggle to change the structures of arts administration. It is a view that challenges perceptions and certainly those of a more martyrological approach but Mikkonen presents some fascinating evidence.

In a way, Pauline Fairclough’s Dolmatovsky on Shostakovich: a Last Memoir, which translates and analyses the poet’s memories of the composer, brings the book full-circle, returning to archival – or at least hard-to-access sources, again shining light on a previously little studied aspect of his life and work.

Going even further back in time is Levon Hakobian’s Shostakovich, Proletkul’t and RAPM. The period of the proletarianisation of culture was a dangerous one for Shostakovich and he navigated the rapids as best he could, accepting conformist projects that bought him freedom to write in a more personal style, whilst in private heaping scorn on prominent members of RAPM. Hakobian then makes a surprising leap to 1957 and the Eleventh Symphony, which he proposes as conforming to the requirements of proletarian music. He goes on to point out that Shostakovich made his Davidenko arrangements in 1962, though there was no particular advantage. Why might this be, asks Hakobian, and arrives at a possible answer that is, at least provocative.

As was noted at the start of this review, material is flooding out of the archives. Frustratingly, much of it is not widely distributed, as it appears in books or academic journals that have short print runs and rarely make it out of Russia. While traditional analyses – such as appear in Shostakovich Studies 2 – play an important role in our interpretation of the composer, it is the archival materials that promise to change and deepen our understanding of the composer most profoundly. This makes the first section of Shostakovich Studies 2 particularly welcome, but, while the DSCH Journal plays an important role in translating and making some of it available, it would be good to see some more systematic dissemination of this material. Fairclough and her team of scholars are amongst those ideally placed to do this, so hopefully future forays will be more in that direction.

John Riley