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Russian Composers' Love-Hate Relationship With The Motherland (Classical Destinations/Perspective)

Video from Perspective

"In Moscow, Simon Callow discovers the impact of politics on the lives and music of Shostakovich and Prokofiev, before a performance in the Kremlin's grand Cathedral of the Archangel."

"On 9 August it will be 40 years since the death of Dmitri Shostakovich, one of the most significant musical figures of the 20th Century. Born in St Petersburg in 1906, he studied the piano with his mother from the age of nine and entered the Conservatoire aged 13, where the leading composer Alexander Glazunov kept a close eye on him. He went on to write 15 symphonies, 15 string quartets, six concertos, a piano quintet, two piano trios and two string octets. His solo piano works include two solo sonatas, and two sets of preludes, one with accompanying fugues. He also wrote operas, song cycles, ballets and film music.

Forced to live for most of his life under a totalitarian regime – one moment in favour with Soviet leaders, then just as quickly out of it again – for much of his career Shostakovich was judged by political rather than musical criteria. He once described life under Stalin's regime as “unbelievably mean and hard. Every day brought more bad news and I felt so much pain. I was so lonely and afraid.” Denounced in 1936 as “an enemy of the people”, friends he had once considered loyal supporters began crossing the street to avoid him. To know him was dangerous; to associate with him, potentially fatal. He risked execution or deportation to the Gulag yet played the system just carefully enough to survive, publishing music that earned him praise for "not having given in to the seductive temptations of his previous 'erroneous' ways”; at least, that is, until his second denunciation for “formalism” and “western influences” in 1948, after which most of his music was banned..." from article:

"Soviet pianist and composer Sergei Prokofiev died 60 years ago, on March 5, 1953, at the age of 61. He had been ill for many years and may have died from a cerebral hemorrhage. His death happened to be on the same day Soviet media reported the death of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, the man whose life and deeds hung like a shadow over most of Prokofiev’s career..."

RFE/RL correspondent Robert Coalson spoke with Princeton University music professor Simon Morrison -- author of “The People’s Artist: Prokofiev’s Soviet Years” and the forthcoming “Lina and Serge: The Love And Wars Of Lina Prokofiev” -- about Prokofiev, who made the fateful decision in 1936 to move his family from Paris to Stalin’s Soviet Union..." from the article: Prokofiev: The Genius In Stalin's Shadow

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