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I think it is pretty clear that the last decades have seen a rise in the popularity of "confessional" music from the late romanticism on. The point is not if this is really the best way to perceive Mahler or Shostakovich but it seems that the fact these two (and others) can be listened to in that way has contributed to them leaving a niche and becoming hugely popular. Whereas emotionally more "distant" music like Stravinsky or some Prokofiev or R. Strauss seems not as highly appreciated as it was.

Among conductors one can often see the tradition they come from, like in the case of Craft. Most of the "modernists" like Boulez, Abbado, Gielen,... mostly ignored DSCH (among others). The more "traditional" ones did so as well or were very selective (Karajan made two recordings of the 10th but nothing else). It seems that, with the exception of Haitink (who admitted that he recorded a few of the symphonies for completeness only) until the 1990s it was mostly Russians (clearly dominating the discography until then) or Americans (Ormandy, Bernstein, Previn) who cared most for DSCH.
Even for the string quartets the Brodsky recordings ca. 1990 were only the second complete non-Russian recording (and the older Fitzwilliam was probably oop by then). The famous western quartet ensembles of the 1950-80s (Amadeus, Juilliard, LaSalle, Guarneri, Italiano, Tokyo, Alban Berg...) mostly ignored what many today would see as the most important 20th century quartet series after Bartok. (They might have played a few in recital, I don't know but made no or very few recordings of them.)

No matter if one thinks the DSCH was severly underrated in the West until the 1990s or is somewhat overrated today, Craft's position might not have been an unusual one (although others might have phrased it less negatively) and the "rise" of DSCH is undeniable and quite remarkable.
 

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Perspectives on Shostakovich and his music changed a lot after his death and publication of Volkov's book about him. He worked behind the Iron Curtain and his music like the 5th symphony was thought to be agitprop pro-communist blather by a dedicated follower. Once Testimony was published and his friends started supporting its assumptions ideas began to change.

Craft was correct that Shostakovich was not an agent of change or innovation. He used traditional forms in traditional ways. There is speculation that he wanted to dabble in 12 tone music but didn't believe the communist authorities would allow/support it. Other than that what Craft says is his opinion, not fact.

Today Shostakovich is considered the last of the greatest composers, along with Benjamin Britten, whose output may be considered in league with the other great composers of history ... thus making Craft's statement at a minimum short sighted.

Craft was an acolyte of Stravinsky, of course, and that is where this loyalties lay. Let us not forget Boulez's proclamation in his heyday that any composer not writing 12 tone or atonal or non-lyrical music was not really a classical music composer.

It's a sad reality that classical music is and always has been full of petty jealousies.
 

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There is speculation that he wanted to dabble in 12 tone music but didn't believe the communist authorities would allow/support it. Other than that what Craft says is his opinion, not fact.
Speculation he wanted to? He actually wrote some. Do you know the late quartets?
 

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Craft was so beholden to modernism, serialism and other musical dead ends that Shostakovich, who was really pretty traditional, was a natural enemy and target. Craft was utterly wrong - Shostakovich was a great composer. Was he as great as Beethoven, Brahms, or Prokofieff? Maybe not. He sure wrote his share of duds and a good amount of dreck - mostly to stay alive and make people happy. But the composer of Lady Macbeth, Symphonies 1, 5, 8, 9, 10, 14, many of the string quartets, the 24 preludes and fugues for piano...those are pretty convincing proof of his stature.
:confused:

So modernism is a dead end, 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.

I think there is a lot of anti-communist and modernist resentment in this forum against Shostakovich. He was a very great composer, but like many composers of his time influenced by the dead end of modernism.

Shostakovich wrote beautiful music with rejectable political messages. But to just sully on the music is the same like the modernist propaganda of Craft.
 

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The 9th symphony is actually one of the best, a brilliantly ironic piece. The problematic "socialist-realist movie scores" are rather pieces like 7 or 11, 12.

I think the dead end metaphor is quite misleading (or maybe a dead end...). What is the "natural" half-life of a style? Was Beethoven's music a "dead end" because his late music was considered difficult for many decades and people didn't continue that style?
If a certain style produced great masterworks, does it really matter if it is abolished or transformed beyond recognition after a few decades? Or should it matter if it "lives" for 2 decades or a century? I don't think so. There can be short and fruitful periods and long ones that are boring or less creative.
 

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Can you name this dreck explicitly?
The second and third symphonies. Maybe the 11th. The Song of the Forests. Poem of the Motherland.

He wrote a lot of film music and thanks to the Capriccio label a lot of it made its way to my library - alas, there's a lot of 2nd rate music there but that's ok - it was just to accompany a forgotten film. The really great film music was recorded on Decca by Chailly.

We can only speculate how DSCH would have been different had he not lived under the threat of possible death by the Soviets. We'll never know. What is astonishing is just how much great music there is despite living under Stalin's thumb.
 

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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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I don't agree with Craft, but he certainly had a right to his own opinion as everyone else does. What I don't think is necessary is to write extensively about why you dislike a composer's music or find them unimportant. The reality is whether you think they're important or not doesn't mean anything as what we have seen time and time again is that Shostakovich has earned his place in the concert repertoire, especially for his outstanding contributions to symphonies, concerti, opera, choral, chamber and solo piano music. To dump on a composer who still to this day has considerable success internationally, I think shows a certain vindictiveness, but also a lack of understanding for the composer's music. If I recall, there was a certain opinion expressed by English composer Robin Holloway where he basically described his music "battle ship grey" or something to this extent while Boulez called him a "third-pressing of Mahler."

The bottomline is this: any composer who has achieved international success and has many masterpieces within the concert repertoire that are regularly performed today is going to bring a certain amount of envy, but also disdain. For this listener, he has had a huge impact on my own listening and has affected me in ways that many other composers never have and this is all that matters to me.
 

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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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Not dreck. Maybe not to your taste, and it's not as popular as 5th and 10th...but not dreck.
Right. Even his 2nd and 3rd symphonies, which I concede are not among my favorite pieces of music, reflect a unique and significant time and place in human history in a dramatic and effective way. And imo that is a good way to describe a wide variety of music by Shostakovich -- dramatic and effective.
 

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The second and third symphonies. Maybe the 11th. The Song of the Forests. Poem of the Motherland.
:mad:

What a terrible comment. The song of the forests is a truly beautiful piece of music. Show me a better piece of russian choral music! Poem of the Motherland and Symphony No. 3 are great too.

The symphony No. 2 is the most modernist symphony of Shostakovich, but Shostakovich manages to make even this interessting. I guess the hate for these works is because of the lyrics, because Symphony No. 2 and The song of the forests are aesthetically completely different. But I care for the music.

Kreisler jr said:
The 9th symphony is actually one of the best, a brilliantly ironic piece. The problematic "socialist-realist movie scores" are rather pieces like 7 or 11, 12.
Oh, even his best piece the 7th symphony is problematic now? The english speaking world liked it when they were in war with Germany. Seems like they had no problem with "socialist realism" back then.
 

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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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I don't think Craft ruined Stravinsky by encouraging him to embrace serialism. 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.

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

But he was wrong about Shostakovich.
 

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"Was Shostakovich a great composer? Not by any criteria of innovation in the language and style of music or by extraordinary powers of invention . . . "

By that measure, neither was Bach.
Really? Bach wrote the first true keyboard concerto, was the first to systematically adopt the well tempered system (composing the WTC just to force the matter) and brought counterpoint to a degree of sophistication and brilliance never matched before or after. As for extraordinary powers of invention-that's what he was famous for... I admit, you trolled me, but just sayin'...
 

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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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I agree with Knorf, especially in his point about some members here talking trash about Robert Craft. Make no mistake, folks, it was Craft who inspired Stravinsky who felt he had nothing else to say compositionally to take up serialism. But the way Stravinsky used it, was completely original and not a complete break from what he had already done previously. If anyone here doesn't find something to enjoy in Stravinsky's late period, then chances are you're not really a fan of his music. A masterpiece like Agon couldn't have been conceived had this newfound interest in the Second Viennese School actually happened. I swear that some listeners are so closed-off to the idea of serialism that they think it all sounds like harsh, out-of-whack, unadulterated noise that a work like Agon wouldn't even get a proper listen from them because of some preconceived notion that the music isn't up to Stravinsky's "best" works --- whatever the hell this actually means.

The reality is simple: Craft was an immense influence on Stravinsky, but also a dear friend who admired him just as he admired Schoenberg (another important composer in his life). But make no mistake, it was Stravinsky's own choice to start using serialist techniques even with all of Craft's urging, but the way he used them was totally singular and like everything he wrote --- it still had his own unmistakable voice within it.

Let the naysayers continue to trash Stravinsky's late period and Craft, but, for me, this short period was fruitful and has given us yet another branch to an already substantial and influential legacy.

Here is an excellent, highly informative video from composer Samuel Andreyev talking about Stravinsky's late period works:


I highly suggest all the naysayers watch this video and actually watch it without distractions. You could learn something.
 

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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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