Socialist Realism

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dulcinea
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Socialist Realism

Post by dulcinea » Sun Mar 18, 2007 10:55 pm

Now that the USSR is history--and may it forever remain thus!--, what is the considered opinion about the music of that period? Prokofiev and Shostakovich both regarded the famous Soviet anthem to be nothing but pure MUSOR=GARBAGE.
Let every thing that has breath praise the Lord! Alleluya!

Ralph
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Post by Ralph » Sun Mar 18, 2007 10:58 pm

There is much great music from the Soviet era and a fair amount of enjoyable works. Shostakovich and Prokofiev are at the pinnacle of 20th Century composers and I doubt that opinion will change.
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Opus132
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Post by Opus132 » Sun Mar 18, 2007 11:12 pm

Socialism is alive and rampant. We just call it political correctness this days. I think John Cage would sound very good with that.

piston
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Post by piston » Sun Mar 18, 2007 11:13 pm

It's been a great delight for me and please do consider the proposition, or hypothesis, that great musical creativity is achieved under tremendous societal constraints just like a diamond is produced under tremendous pressure. Far from me the idea of igniting a thermo-nuclear cultural warfare on this particular point of view but Soviet music by Popov, Nosyrev, Kabalevsky, Weinberg, Shchedrin, Myaskovsky, Eshpai, Boris Tchaikovsky, Lyatochinsky, Khachaturian, Knipper, Tischenko, Schnittke, Ulstvolskaya, Gubaidulina, Shostakovich and Prokofiev :D compares very favorably with their American contemporaries.
Last edited by piston on Sun Mar 18, 2007 11:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Opus132
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Post by Opus132 » Sun Mar 18, 2007 11:16 pm

For four minutes and thirty-three seconds?
Sure. Tempo marking: as slow as possible. Make sure you take that as literally as you possibly can...

dulcinea
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Post by dulcinea » Sun Mar 18, 2007 11:57 pm

piston wrote:It's been a great delight for me and please do consider the proposition, or hypothesis, that great musical creativity is achieved under tremendous societal constraints just like a diamond is produced under tremendous pressure. Far from me the idea of igniting a thermo-nuclear cultural warfare on this particular point of view but Soviet music by Popov, Nosyrev, Kabalevsky, Weinberg, Shchedrin, Myaskovsky, Eshpai, Boris Tchaikovsky, Lyatochinsky, Khachaturian, Knipper, Tischenko, Schnittke, Ulstvolskaya, Gubaidulina, Shostakovich and Prokofiev :D compares very favorably with their American contemporaries.
I see you don't mention Glazunov or Gliere; is your opinion of those two as low as mine?
Let every thing that has breath praise the Lord! Alleluya!

rasputin
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Post by rasputin » Mon Mar 19, 2007 6:43 am

dulcinea: you are as low as your opinions.

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Post by jbuck919 » Mon Mar 19, 2007 6:59 am

piston wrote:It's been a great delight for me and please do consider the proposition, or hypothesis, that great musical creativity is achieved under tremendous societal constraints just like a diamond is produced under tremendous pressure. Far from me the idea of igniting a thermo-nuclear cultural warfare on this particular point of view but Soviet music by Popov, Nosyrev, Kabalevsky, Weinberg, Shchedrin, Myaskovsky, Eshpai, Boris Tchaikovsky, Lyatochinsky, Khachaturian, Knipper, Tischenko, Schnittke, Ulstvolskaya, Gubaidulina, Shostakovich and Prokofiev :D compares very favorably with their American contemporaries.
You mean like Schoenberg, Bartok, and Stravinsky?

Just kidding, of course.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

Ralph
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Post by Ralph » Mon Mar 19, 2007 7:32 am

I very much enjoy Glazunov and yesterday heard a rousing reading of his Sixth Symphony by the Russian National Orchestra at Lincoln Center. Gliere also composed much very engaging music.
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val
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Post by val » Mon Mar 19, 2007 8:08 am

I believe that, in spite of the problems created by the regime, both Prokofiev - after his return to Russia - and Shostakovitch were great artists and composed works that are among the masterpieces of the XX century.
Shostakovitch string quartets, the viola sonata, the operas Lady Macbeth in Mzensk and in special The Nose, the 2nd, 8th, 10th and 14th Symphonies are great works, with a deep humanism.

Prokofiev in his sowjet period composed works such as Romeo and Juliet, the 5th and 6th Symphonies, the 2nd violin concerto, Alexander Nevsky, the piano Sonatas 6, 7 and 8.

Of course, both composers had to satisfy, here and then, the directives of the Communist Party. Prokofiev composed October, Simeon Kotko - even so, it was not well received by the regime - and Shostakovitch the 5th, 7th Symphonies, The Song of the Forrests.

But didn't Strauss or Egk did the same in Nazi German?

Nevertheless, I believe that Shostakovitch could have been an even greater composer if there were not the political limitations.

piston
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Post by piston » Mon Mar 19, 2007 9:14 am

Glazunov did not compose very much after the Russian Revolution. The Piano Concerto no. 2, op. 100, first performed in 1917, serving as a kind of dividing line between pre- and post-revolutionary Russia. He lived a miserable life during the first decade after WWI, mainly composing piano and a little organ music. A few more pieces were composed in the 1930's, after he moved to the West: a Concerto-Ballata for cello and orchestra, a concerto for saxophone and orchestra, etc. In summary, with the exception of some preludes and fugues for the piano, he can hardly be considered a Soviet composer. More than nine-tenth of his work is pre-revolutionary Russian, very much in the vein of the Mighty Five. For those who enjoy Tchaikovsky or Rimsky-Korsakov, there are numerous rewards in a selective approach to Glazunov's music.

An individual of many identities (of Belgian-Jewish extraction), Gliere first follows the Russian nationalist school, then turns to French impressionist and German music, before returning to a more "Russian" idiom later in his work. He is a nationalist-romantic whose accessible music was immensely popular, a sort of Virgil Thomson of the Soviet Union. :wink:

dulcinea
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Post by dulcinea » Mon Mar 19, 2007 1:40 pm

rasputin wrote:dulcinea: you are as low as your opinions.
Do Glazunov and Gliere REALLY deserve to be in the same company as Medtner, Prokofiev and Shostakovich?
Let every thing that has breath praise the Lord! Alleluya!

piston
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Post by piston » Mon Mar 19, 2007 2:18 pm

Do Virgil Thomson and and George Antheil belong in the same category as Aaron Copland and George Gershwin?Image

dulcinea
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Post by dulcinea » Tue Mar 20, 2007 12:25 pm

piston wrote:Do Virgil Thomson and and George Antheil belong in the same category as Aaron Copland and George Gershwin?Image
Can't say, since WUSF-FM's repertoire of 20th century US music is not very comprehensive; the Saxophone Concerto of Glazunov and THE RED POPPY of Gliere, on the other hand, I never want to hear again in my life. What music of Thomson and Antheil shows them at their best?
Let every thing that has breath praise the Lord! Alleluya!

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Post by rogch » Tue Mar 20, 2007 1:26 pm

Classical composers and performers of course experienced some restrictions in the USSR. But i think it is fair to say that other artists had bigger problems,
authors being the most obvious example. Knowing the history of the USSR it is not an unthinkable scenario that they could declare western music "bourgeois" and dismiss the most popular western composers. That did not happen. Classical artists could make commercial recordings and cooperate with western artists. And there were plenty of good composers in the USSR.

But of course there were examples of intervention by the authorities. The most famous case is perhaps from 1948 when Soviet composers were collectively accused of "formalism". I am not sure what they meant by that. But it did not mean an end to good music-making in the USSR.
Roger Christensen

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rasputin
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Post by rasputin » Tue Mar 20, 2007 4:14 pm

IMO, Glazunov and Gliere are 2 of the most important romantic
russian composers of the first haf of the 20th.century. The
symphonic and chamber production of Glazunov is worthwile, and Illya Mourovets is an extraordinary piece.
Glazunov's v.c.is a beauty, as his 7 SQ, his S quintet and the
suite for SQ. Gliere SQ are good very russian romantic works.
Of course they belong to an epoc and a style pevious to Prok.
and Shosta.,and they shouldn't be campared. They are very
different.

piston
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Post by piston » Tue Mar 20, 2007 9:11 pm

dulcinea wrote:
piston wrote:Do Virgil Thomson and and George Antheil belong in the same category as Aaron Copland and George Gershwin?Image
Can't say, since WUSF-FM's repertoire of 20th century US music is not very comprehensive; the Saxophone Concerto of Glazunov and THE RED POPPY of Gliere, on the other hand, I never want to hear again in my life. What music of Thomson and Antheil shows them at their best?
Similarly, I couldn't believe my ears when I heard Antheil's Ballet Mécanique with its airplane propeller, siren, electric bell and ten player- pianos! And have you ever heard Thomson's Four Saints in Three Acts on a libretto by Gertrude Stein!Image You have got to wonder what use they made of tax-payers' money during the New Deal.... But, you know what? I kept on listening to their other works and found some interesting stuff in the process. Thomson's Louisiana Suite is quite worth your while and, if you can overcome the old Cold War barriers, the same reality applies to Glazunov's and Gliere's works.

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Post by diegobueno » Fri Mar 23, 2007 8:31 am

I think it would be useful to leave Prokofiev and Shostakovich out of this discussion. Their genius was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers the authorities put in their way. The real crux of the matter is how did the other composers, the ones who were merely talented, cope with the need to please Stalin's whims?

Part of the problem, for us, is simply knowing what music is out there. A lot of this music never made it to the west. Selected scores by Khachaturian and Kabalevskii continue to be performed, though some find them too "socialist-realist" (I've heard the name "Kitsch-aturian" applied to the former)

I have a fondness for the Azeri composer Fikret Amirov and his symphonic mugams "Shur" and "Kiurdi Ovshari". There's another symphonic mugam, "Rast" by Niiazi which I also like. It seems the authorities in Azerbaijan were encouraging the composition of symphonic mugams in the late 1940s. For some reason, I like all the examples I've heard so far.

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