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Thread: In Search of Lost Time

  1. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by BiscuityBoyle View Post
    Why? What's the link? That some of the protagonists of the novel die?
    The way they accept death maybe,

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    I've long associated Borodin with Chekhov, in sense of spirit. Both (men of science) seem in their art to lament the loss of the traditional Russian world on the verge of Revolution. I can't read The Cherry Orchard or Uncle Vanya without feeling a deep sense of loss of "what was" and a frightening sense of "what is to come"; nor can I hear the Borodin string quartets with any greater assurance. In my work in the theatre I've longed to design sound for Chekhov utilizing only Borodin's music. Alas, I never got the opportunity for this particular project. But I've read the Chekhov plays many times and always is Borodin either in the background from my stereo or from my memory of his scores.

    Dostoyevsky is, of course, a more tragic writer -- darker than Chekhov who at least maintains a comic spirit. Some of the music of Taneyev certainly captures the attitude of the author of Crime and Punishment. Mussorgsky certainly does. And the final three symphonies of Tchaikovsky, especially Four and Six, seem resplendently Dostoevskian.

    I would suggest that Solzhenitsyn is well represented musically in the works of Shostakovich. I've long felt that one knows more about the experience of life under Stalinistic Communism from listening to Shostakovich than by reading any amount of history or non-fiction on the matter. If you really want to plumb the experience of the gulag, however, you need to turn to the Symphony No. 5 "Amen" by Galina Ustvolskaya. That's a piece that serves well as incidental music to a reading of The Gulag Archipelago.

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  4. #18
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    Being Russian, I find it so sad that Chekhov is better known in the West as a playwright than as the author of arguably the most extraordinary body of short fiction in world literature alongside Kafka. Even his finest stab at dramaturgy, The Seagull, has maybe an act and a half that's masterful and plenty that's ham-handed and melodramatic. But this kind of thing is catnip to most theater goers who are very much into the claptrap about "the Russian soul."

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandryka View Post
    The way they accept death maybe,
    I'd recommend then to look into Tolstoy's short novella The Death of Ivan Ilyich, it's the kind of work you get goosebumps just thinking about.

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    I started to think about this when Teodor Currentzis released his Shostakovich 14. People complained that it was too "happy" -- and then I heard someone, a Russian, point out that one can happily accept death. I don't know that there's anything Russian in that point of view really -- I think you have similar ideas in Marguerite Yourcenar for example, in L'Œuvre au noir.
    Last edited by Mandryka; Aug-13-2018 at 09:36.

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    Senior Member Larkenfield's Avatar
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    I would strongly recommend any of the Russian composers being performed by native Russian musicians. For instance, there is nothing to me like the virility of the male Russian voices that I find unique, especially in the baritone and bass register. I find it the opposite of the Austro-German tradition. So, it's not just the composer or work, no matter what the era, but the performers for the authentic sound. This is not to suggest that there haven't been fine performances by non-Russians, perhaps just not as subtly idiomatic in sound.

    There have been giants in Russian literature and music, perhaps because their history has been so rich and turbulent, so the subject is a huge area. For those writers who were religiously inclined, I'd also suggest exploring the sacred masterpieces of the Russian Orthodox Church that have the essence of the genuine Russian voices. But for starters, as others have mentioned, Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov is incredibly Russian in flavor and not to be missed. I've long considered him the musical counterpart of Dostoevsky. There's a similar rawness and honesty in both.

    Last edited by Larkenfield; Aug-13-2018 at 10:54.
    ”Art is how we decorate space; Music is how we decorate time.”

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    Senior Member Strange Magic's Avatar
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    I am not a devoted reader of fiction. I prefer nonfiction, recalling Mark Twain's remark that the difference between fiction and nonfiction is that fiction must attempt to be believable. But Russian literature is something else again--it never disappoints in its often idiosyncratic situations, locales, plots, discussions of important issues, and I get pulled in every time. My most recent exploration were some of the stories and novellas of Alexander Kuprin, some truly engrossing and bizarre material. I loved the note in the introduction that Kuprin hated life under the tsar, then after the revolution he hated life under the Soviets. He then emigrated to France and found he hated living as an exile. So he returned to the USSR, and died a broken, embittered man a year or so upon his return.

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    Senior Member WildThing's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by elgars ghost View Post
    I'd check out Modest Mussorgsky's songs (he wrote nigh-on 80 all told), beginning with the three principal cycles (The Nursery/Sunless/Songs and Dances of Death). He was a gifted songsmith, and the vast majority of his chosen texts are from Russian sources - as a body of work it represents a creative highpoint along with Boris Godunov, Night on Bald Mountain and Pictures at an Exhibition.
    An excellent suggestion. I am an avid fan of Mussorgsky's songs, and can heartily recommend this set:


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    Those of you who are fans of Russian song should check out Rostislav Boiko's "Vyatka Songs" (for orchestra and voice) available on RUSSIAN DISC RD CD 11 045.

    Boiko 1.jpg Boiko 2.jpg

    My favorite remains the final song, number 13, "As the Linnet Was Walking in the Boyar's Yard". If this doesn't convince you that Russian song is worth seeking out, you have no ears.

    By the way, that Boiko Symphony No. 2 is pretty good, too!

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    Quote Originally Posted by BiscuityBoyle View Post
    Being Russian, I find it so sad that Chekhov is better known in the West as a playwright than as the author of arguably the most extraordinary body of short fiction in world literature alongside Kafka. Even his finest stab at dramaturgy, The Seagull, has maybe an act and a half that's masterful and plenty that's ham-handed and melodramatic. But this kind of thing is catnip to most theater goers who are very much into the claptrap about "the Russian soul."



    I'd recommend then to look into Tolstoy's short novella The Death of Ivan Ilyich, it's the kind of work you get goosebumps just thinking about.
    The Chekhov short stories are very good, though I’m more interested in Kafka’s modernism. The plays are an enigma, I mean, why don’t those thee sisters just pull themselves together - they’ve got a nice house and a good family and friends, and they’re not short of a bob or two, what’s to be so miserable about?

    You know, I’ve always avoided Tolstoy’s late works because of the way he caught religion, but what you’ve written will prompt me to give it a try sometime (at the moment I’m reading more French than Russian, I’m reading a lot of Claude Simon and Richard Millet)
    Last edited by Mandryka; Aug-14-2018 at 06:49.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Forss View Post
    My quest is simple: I am in search of the Russian-Soviet spirit in the sphere of (classical) music, the same spirit that I find in the writings of, say, Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Solzhenitsyn and Svetlana Alexievich, i.e. in the good Russian world of the humanities. What composer – if any – has captured this spirit, or experience, in his or her music? ...
    Mussorgsky, Shostakovich.

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    One of my favorite short stories of all time remains "Bezhin Meadow" (or "Bezhin Lea") by Ivan Turgenev, whom some of you will know from the novel Fathers and Sons (1862). "Bezhin Meadow" is from the collection A Sportsman's Sketches (1852), a milestone of Russian realism. If I were to equate this story (and others from A Sportsman's Sketches) to a sound from some Russian composer, I might turn to the orchestral music of Anatoly Liadov whose short tone poems "Baba Yaga", "Kikimora", and "The Enchanted Lake" may have little to do with Turgenev realism but certainly do reflect the "sounds" I hear when I read the story. Maybe the novel Fathers and Sons is better served by the symphonies of Boris Lyatoshinsky. But I, for one, have been reading for years, and often seek appropriate music to filter the background. These are some of my picks for the Russian Turgenev.

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  19. #27
    Senior Member elgars ghost's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by WildThing View Post
    An excellent suggestion. I am an avid fan of Mussorgsky's songs, and can heartily recommend this set:

    What do you think of the posthumous orchestration of some of the songs - yea or nae? In a way I wish the famous (but slightly less complete than Leiferkus) Boris Christoff set would have all been for piano only.
    '...a violator of his word, a libertine over head and ears in debt and disgrace, a despiser of domestic ties, the companion of gamblers and demireps, a man who has just closed half a century without a single claim on the gratitude of his country or the respect of posterity...' - Leigh Hunt on the Prince Regent (later George IV).

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  21. #28
    Senior Member Forss's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SONNET CLV View Post
    I've long associated Borodin with Chekhov, in sense of spirit. Both (men of science) seem in their art to lament the loss of the traditional Russian world on the verge of Revolution. I can't read The Cherry Orchard or Uncle Vanya without feeling a deep sense of loss of "what was" and a frightening sense of "what is to come"; nor can I hear the Borodin string quartets with any greater assurance. In my work in the theatre I've longed to design sound for Chekhov utilizing only Borodin's music. Alas, I never got the opportunity for this particular project. But I've read the Chekhov plays many times and always is Borodin either in the background from my stereo or from my memory of his scores.
    Borodin's two string quartets are really out of this world: so refined, so subtle, so... elevated. I have just spent the last couple of days absorbing his wonderful music: a truly rewarding experience.
    Last edited by Forss; Aug-15-2018 at 21:03.

  22. #29
    Senior Member WildThing's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by elgars ghost View Post
    What do you think of the posthumous orchestration of some of the songs - yea or nae? In a way I wish the famous (but slightly less complete than Leiferkus) Boris Christoff set would have all been for piano only.
    I'm somewhere in between I suppose! The posthumous orchestration or reorchestration of several of his works, in addition the songs -- like Boris Godunov, Night on Bald Mountain -- give them a kind of polish and flair that is foreign to Mussorgsky's more rustic, folky aesthetic I feel. But taken for what they are I think they are still colorful showpieces worth listening to.
    Last edited by WildThing; Aug-15-2018 at 20:38.

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