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It's neither correct nor incorrect, but rather just an opinion. You might agree or disagree with Craft's opinion.

For myself, I partially agree, but I think Craft is missing some dramatic elements that Shostakovich was truly great at it, not to mention what Shostakovich achieved within restrictions, given how he was forced by his government, on threat of imprisonment or death, to restrict his imagination in terms of 20th-c innovations and novelties.
 

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Robert Craft (1923-2015) was a conductor and a dear friend of Igor Stravinsky. More than just a friend, he was almost like a family member, and often worked directly as Stravinsky's amanuensis, assisting him in numerous important ways including editing, translations, and the like. There's no doubt that there was a great love between Robert Craft and the Stravinskys.

Craft was also a very fine conductor. He never reached the top rank in terms of his own career, but he has left us many, many great recordings, especially of Stravinsky, but also Schoenberg. Importantly, he championed both, bridging the supposed rift that followers of the two great composers had more-or-less enforced.

Craft also championed many less well-known but totally worthy Stravinsky works that most conductors of the 1950s-1980s basically totally ignored, especially the late masterworks.

Unfortunately, haters of 12-tone music, or 20th-c. modern music in general, blame Craft for supposedly turning Stravinsky into a serial composer. Paraphrasing Craft, "as if anyone could lead that particular horse to water and make him drink..." It's beyond laughable to think anyone could compel Stravinsky do anything he wasn't inclined to.

So, of course it's nonsense. The explanation is simple: Stravinsky was interested in his friend Robert Craft's career, and since Craft made a number of first-ever LP recordings of Schoenberg's music, especially from his 12-tone era, Stravinsky was understandably curious to hear it. He subsequently found he liked it and was intrigued by it. People forget that it was pretty difficult to get hold of recordings of Schoenberg back then. And the fact is he discovered Schoenberg's 12-tone system actually overlay rather well the direction his own musical thinking had already been headed for some time, in terms of organizing the accumulation of the chromatic aggregate (a deeper explanation of this is a topic for another time and place.)

As for Craft's disaffection for Shostakovich, it's hardly surprising, especially from a statement made in the 1970s. There is some genuine, warranted criticism there: a lot of Shostakovich's music is quite limited in texture and form, and can come across as one-dimensional. Again, as I wrote above, focusing on that only can cause one to miss the dramatic and expressive directness of Shostakovich's best music, and the depth of achievement he found working within severe, life-threatening, externally-imposed limitations. And there's little doubt Shostakovich, but for the threat of Stalin, would have been a much more adventurous composer.

Everyone has their blind spots. Having them doesn't make someone a bad person.

In the end, how can anyone be surprised that a dear friend and deeply committed devotee of Stravinsky would lack an affinity for Shostakovich?! I mean, really. (I'm shocked, SHOCKED to find that gambling is going on in here!!)

It's pretty forgivable, if you ask me.

In no way was Craft "the worst thing to happen to Stravinsky's music," as someone with appalling ignorance wrote up thread, and he was certainly not in any way "low class musician." He had a quite respectable career, in fact, I suspect one far, far beyond anyone on Talk Classical, certainly including me.

Craft left a truly great recorded legacy (admittedly in a small repertoire.) And there's no doubt he was a genuine friend to Stravinsky.
 

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...encouraging him to embrace serialism.
As I explain above, this is not what happened. Stravinsky embraced it on his own volition.

No, Stravinsky's late works are among his best, IMO. Stravinsky never wrote a work in which his unique style came shining through, and this is abundantly true for his late serial works. In his treatment of rhythm, and his method of using the tone row to create melodies and harmonies not unlike his previous works, I can easily tell his work from any other serial music.
Totally agree.

Craft was a fine conductor and I am grateful for his championing the work of Stravinsky, Schoenberg, and modernism in general.
Totally agree.

But he was wrong about Shostakovich.
How is it wrong to state an opinion? In the quoted statement, what is factual is all true, and the rest, which is most of the quote, is simply opinion.
 

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...The political context of the Craft's unfair quip cannot be understood without getting it into the contemporaneous context of the Cold War. I do not mean the general Cold War as most people remember it from the 80ies (and younger people know from mostly mendacious movies), but the specific period of the Cold War. The period when the Congress for Cultural Freedom thrived. Shostakovich was not simply one of the targets but the main boogie-man. Craft's criticism was a carefully crafted attack within the general party line of that time, coached (ostensibly) in purely musical terms.
Do you have any evidence, and not just speculation, that Cold War politics were of any importance to Robert Craft's opinion of Shostakovich?

Frankly I find it likely he might have held this opinion without regard for Cold War politics. It would not be unusual; not everyone thinks Shostakovich is all that great, even now.

If you have evidence that Craft was towing the "party line" (by the way, which party, exactly?), let's see it, please.

Given the seemingly total ignorance of the posters of the context...
:rolleyes:
 

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I'd accept a quote of any kind from Craft demonstrating that he cared about Cold War politics/propaganda in terms of his esteem for a composer. I have read a lot of Craft, and don't recall encountering any comments that would convince me it was a significant factor.
 

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Well, he already did take a broad swipe at the "total ignorance" of unspecified posters in this thread.

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." Because, "context," I guess. I mean, sure, the Cold War was real, but hardly everyone in the west was at the mercy of the state and forced to make public statements, practically at gunpoint, as Shostakovich was.

Can you do me a kindness and read again what I have actually written before?
I regret to inform you that reading what you wrote a single time was more than sufficient.

My basic thesis is that, while from the point of today, Craft's quip about Shostakovich seems purely music-based, the historical context (of which, sadly, most people are ignorant), would suggest otherwise. Frankly, I do not very much care what one accepts or not (and that is not meant as a personal impoliteness, just a fact, if you take it personally, I apologise). At the time, a purely propagandistic statement (public, not private) from such a cultural authority as Craft would have been a sure faux pas.
Ah, so, indeed what you have is speculation, without evidence beyond broad conjecture.

Craft left behind many writings about music, especially Stravinsky. Have you read any of it?
 

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I see that you still insist on fighting a straw man of your own invention.
:rolleyes:

As I have repeatedly insisted, I do not see Craft acting as a simple-minded propagandist.
Who's whacking the strawman here? I never insisted that you wrote this: "simple-minded," nor implied it.

But to ignore the fact that the whole polemics (and Craft was an important participant) on Shostakovich was heavily tinged by the political context best exemplified by the Congress on Cultural Freedom drive, is simply incorrect. It seems that you are very much marching to your own drummer here. Perhaps "tinged" is too weak a word. Shostakovich, rightly or wrongly, was chosen as THE target of the campaign. People reacted to the issue, and they did that very much within the context. Craft also did this.
Did he? Where's your evidence?

I was just hoping for transparency, elucidation...to have some idea of what you were talking about, that's all.
I'm sorry to say, this hope might well be in vain.

I think I'm about done with this thread, myself.
 

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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...
All too true, sadly.
 

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I just cannot believe that Americans are more aware of the details of the Schumanns - Brahms affair than of much more recent music-related events of their own history. 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.
It's a very interesting story, indeed.

What is your evidence that Craft was swept up, or influenced by it, in any way?

If you're merely speculating, as it seems you are, my advice is to admit it and recant your "total ignorance" swipe against other posters in this thread.
 

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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.
 

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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.
Yes, I've heard of this, and other CIA-backed modern art programs in West Germany, including avant garde music radio broadcasts. Simply put I, like you, have never heard of any connection to Craft, and it's still hard for me to believe it was a significant factor in the OP's quote, based on what I already know about Craft and his many writings about Stravinsky and other topics. I'm happy to be corrected on this if there is in fact something concrete linking Craft to such things.
 

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It's true. A thread listing and discussing every single famous musician in history who made negative comments about now-famous composers—whether mild or scathing, informed or prejudiced—would be a very long thread.

ETA: example, "was Mendelssohn right about Berlioz?"

Well, it was just, like, his opinion, man...

...and it happens I disagree with it. So what?
 

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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...
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!
 
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