Judging from what's there, I think Craft couldn't see the forest for the trees. Shostakovich's music reflected the contradictions of his time. He held up a mirror to the darkest moments of the 20th century. He was extremely versatile, composing everything from film scores to jazz arrangements and a musical to works in all genres of serious music. Much like Ives, in his serious works he extensively quotes popular songs, folk tunes, including mottos and music by other composers as well as his own. Despite his early experimental phase, he was overall a refiner of developments in music, and he believed that music should speak directly to the listener.I'm not that deep into Shostakovich, so I'm curious about this statement by Robert Craft in the 1970s. Back when I was in school, this was the prevailing viewpoint. Was Craft correct, or was he blowing smoke from some sort of Cold War prejudice?
"Was Shostakovich a great composer? Not by any criteria of innovation in the language and style of music or by extraordinary powers of invention . . . The music that Shostakovich wrote does not exhibit a wide range of emotions. It depends on simple contrasts of the lyrical and the dramatic, the elegaic and the grotesque, the solemn and the 'impudent' . . . The ideas are worked to death, the forms, with their cliches of crescendo and climax, tend to sprawl, and the substance is thin, maddeningly so."
His death was seen by many as the end of an era. I think that there's something to that, especially looking at how in the second half of the 20th century, a wide gap opened up between what some experts thought people should hear and what they actually wanted to hear. This applied not only to Shostakovich, but to many other composers who where deemed irrelevant. History might have proven many such experts wrong, or largely so, especially for putting such a high premium on innovation. Theirs was a blinkered version of modernism, which in reality was diverse and included eclectic figures like Shostakovich.