Music and Letters, Volume 91, Number 1, February 2010, pp. 83-90
Published by Oxford University Press
By Simon Morrison
Several histories of Soviet music exist, but many are hobbles by an absence of primary-source documentation about crucial events: the circumstances surrounding the denunciation of Dmitry Shostakovich in 1936, for example, or the anti-formalist resolution of 1948. The gaps tend to be filled by uncritical references to uncritical sources. These include the uncorroborated testimony of eyewitnesses, partial (rather than complete) publications of compositions, and unchallenged recollections. Every survivor of the Stanlinist period, the worst of all times in terms of thought control seems to have a sorrowful tale to tell of censorship and deprivation, sometimes supplemented with fanciful accounts of defiance. Though the system was monstrous, it did offer perks, as evidenced by the career of the eminent cellist and (later) conductor Mstislav Rostropovich (1927-2007).