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.... but the things Shostakovich wrote to make people happy are dreck?
Can you name this dreck explicitly?
Only his symphony No. 9 comes to my mind to be describable as dreck. But that is proof of his stature for you.
DS #9 is a wonderful piece....Shostakovich did compose some politically expedient stuff - finales of Syms 2 and 3, and perhaps #12....but so what??
He was a great composer, who lived the experience of Russia in the 20th century....his music is very dramatic, expressive, often dark, brooding, sardonic, occasionally "triumphant"...he runs the whole spectrum....
He also composed a large amount of film music, and the big ballet scores, much of it pre-Lady Macbeth....some of these works had to conform to party dictates....but that's the environment in which he found himself...
 

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Not dreck. Maybe not to your taste, and it's not as popular as 5th and 10th...but not dreck.
#11 is really good, it's underrated....3 is quite interesting, until we get to the proletarian-revolution banner-waving finale...#2 - ?? I just don't know what he was about with this one...more proletarian rah-rah stuff in the finale...
 

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And there's little doubt Shostakovich, but for the threat of Stalin, would have been a much more adventurous composer....
We can get a hint of what might have developed with Shostakovich if we listen to his works up to and including Lady Macbeth and Symphony #4....his big ballet scores, and film music are very colorful, pretty wild, actually, but flamboyant, upbeat, very energetic...after Lady/Sym #4, Shostakovich's works take on a much darker hue, still brilliantly orchestrated, but with a much more somber, even gloomy affect. of course, this was the time of the Stalinist terror - the massive purges, people simply disappearing, never to be heard from again...then came the horror of the German invasion, and the ensuing desperate ordeal of the Russian people.

DS supposedly really enjoyed jazz, and wanted to explore it - but the regime dictates were that jazz was representative of the "decadent west", frittering away their time and efforts in frivolous, unproductive dilly-dallying, not worthy of imitation, and most certainly not adherent to the wholesome values of the proletarian revolution and the honest labor of the blah, blah, yakety-yak, so on and so forth...
 

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Also, consider Shostakovich's wild opera The Nose. It's gigantic, hilarious, and blisteringly satirical. It's also extraordinarily audacious and imaginative! I mean, there's a two-minute percussion-only intermezzo in Act I!
Yes!! "The Nose"!! :devil::lol: really wild!! Very satirical, and bound to run into trouble....after its introduction in 1930, it did not surface again in Russia until 1974.
 

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..... Craft's criticism was a carefully crafted attack within the general party line of that time, coached (ostensibly) in purely musical terms...
What "general party line"?? What party?? have you any evidence of this supposed party-generated "carefully crafted attack"??
 

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Anyway, from my point of view, given what I already know of Craft from having read a considerable amount of his writing, I find it fairly risible to read someone insisting that Craft had to be acting as some sort of propaganda agent for some (again unspecified) "party line."
The Congress for Cultural Freedom was a CIA-driven anti-Soviet advocacy group...I've not detected any definite connection between this group and Robert Craft.
 

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At least The Nose wasn't banned at the time. There was still artistic freedom for composers in the Soviet Union during 1929-30, it's just that The Nose was simply a box office bomb and was then forgotten. Needless to say, had the work premiered later in the 1930s the Culture Commissars would have had Shostakovich's balls on a fork...
True, but the whole plot makes a mockery of a government official, not something that Comrade Stalin was likely to look upon favorably...Besides the flagrant sexuality and violence of Lady Macbeth, one of the things in that opera to which the "Steel Man" took offense was DS' portrayal of the cops as a bunch of bored, lazy, drunken bullies - hardly a wholesome depiction of those noble guardians of the honest proletarian values of the Revolution - the NKVD!!
 

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.....Such as the episode when the Soviets dragged poor Shostakovich to New York to make some kind of an ideological point, and Irving Kristol and Nikolas Nabokov were plotting a counter-strike from a suite in Waldorf Astoria, and how then the whole anti-Shostakovich ball started rolling? Such a story.
Yes, but is there some evidence of Craft's connection to this??
 

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Cheers. If there is something concrete linking Craft to Cold War politics regarding the assessment of Shostakovich, it will be interesting to read.
To be clear, I'm not saying that it's impossible. But it definitely isn't something I've previously encountered with Craft specifically.
Same here........
 

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Although I am of course aware of the political forces which affected Shostakovich (all Soviet composers) - when I listen to the music that knowledge is the last thing I am thinking about. Even for the works which have something in the title, "1905", "To October", "Leningrad", etc., I ignore those subtitles and approach the music without any window dressing.
Same here...Shostakovich's works don't really need the political/patriotic context ..the music speaks well for itself.
 

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Also, consider Shostakovich's wild opera The Nose. It's gigantic, hilarious, and blisteringly satirical. It's also extraordinarily audacious and imaginative! I mean, there's a two-minute percussion-only intermezzo in Act I!
I've been listening to "The Nose" - what a great, wild score!! really flashy, imaginative....I never got a chance to play this work...I wish I did, what a hoot!! I guess it doesn't get programmed all that much...
 

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Ultimately, music is a medium in itself, its not a history book. However, I think that knowledge of the history behind the music can enhance the listener's experience. It can depend on the listener's interests, for example I've always been interested in history.
A big part of Shostakovich's uniqueness is that he bears witness to history. If there's one composer of the 20th century where its virtually impossible to avoid the circumstances in which the music was created, its him.
Yes, this is true...Shostakovich lived the experience of Russia through much of the 20th century...It's much too trite, simplistic, to say that his music described, or depicted literally the times and events thru which he lived - but his music certainly reflects that national and personal experience - what a turbulent, violent, disruptive history for Russia in the 20th century....what other nations suffered such upheaval and violence?? China, maybe, Poland...??
The Czarist regime, the First World War, the Revolution, the brutal Civil War, the Stalin purges, the terrible ordeal of the Nazi invasion of WWII, the Cold War, the pressure to conform to party lines....
 

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Well, it has an enormous cast, and is highly demanding of the orchestra as well as the staging, etc.

But I love it. Also, it's hilarious!
Act 3 has a very nice, high bassoon solo that recurs several times....it would be a fun book to play for sure....pretty wild stuff, esp when the police et al are chasing after the Nose to capture it!! what a riot!!
 
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