Shostakovich by Laurel Fay
A Life

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Synopsis


For this authoritative post-cold-war biography of Shostakovich's illustrious but turbulent career under Soviet rule, Laurel E. Fay has gone back to primary documents: Shostakovich's many letters, concert programs and reviews, newspaper articles, and diaries of his contemporaries. An indefatigable worker, he wrote his arresting music despite deprivations during the Nazi invasion and constant surveillance under Stalin's regime.
Shostakovich's life is a fascinating example of the paradoxes of living as an artist under totalitarian rule. In August 1942, his Seventh Symphony, written as a protest against fascism, was performed in Nazi-besieged Leningrad by the city's surviving musicians, and was triumphantly broadcast to the German troops, who had been bombarded beforehand to silence them. Alone among his artistic peers, he survived successive Stalinist cultural purges and won the Stalin Prize five times, yet in 1948 he was dismissed from his conservatory teaching positions, and many of his works were banned from performance. He prudently censored himself, in one case putting aside a work based on Jewish folk poems. Under later regimes he balanced a career as a model Soviet, holding government positions and acting as an international ambassador with his unflagging artistic ambitions.
In the years since his death in 1975, many have embraced a view of Shostakovich as a lifelong dissident who encoded anti-Communist messages in his music. This lucid and fascinating biography demonstrates that the reality was much more complex. Laurel Fay's book includes a detailed list of works, a glossary of names, and an extensive bibliography, making it an indispensable resource for future studies of Shostakovich.
 

About Laurel Fay

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\Laurel E. Fay is a widely published writer on Russian and Soviet music, who has been traveling to and studying in Russia since 1971. She lives in Staten Island, New York.
 
Published October 30, 1999 by Oxford University Press, USA. 488 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Humor & Entertainment, Arts & Photography, Travel. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Shostakovich

The New York Times

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And Lesser might dismiss the idea, but she too ends up showing that Shostakovich could be considered a kind of “secret dissident” struggling in his music against the “enormous external forces that made him both a celebrated hero and a shivering wreck.” In “Testimony,” the character calle...

May 06 2011 | Read Full Review of Shostakovich: A Life

The New York Times

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The Soviets distributed this picture of Shostakovich, said to be at work on his Seventh Symphony under siege in Leningrad in 1941.

May 06 2011 | Read Full Review of Shostakovich: A Life

Publishers Weekly

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Shostakovich's tortured relationship to the Soviet authorities was a main subject of Testimony , a book published after the composer's death by Volkov, who claimed that it contained Shostakovich's own remembrances.

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Publishers Weekly

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Fay, an academic specializing in Russian music, notes in her introduction to this careful and detailed study of the Soviet composer's life and work that ""there is not a single even remotely reliable resource in Russian, English, or any other language for the basic facts"" about him.

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The New York Review of Books

There are precious few original observations or insights in Orlando Figes’s review of my book Shostakovich and Stalin: The Extraordinary Relationship Between the Great Composer and the Brutal Dictator [NYR, June 10].

Jul 15 2004 | Read Full Review of Shostakovich: A Life

Project MUSE

Fay enables her readers to keep track of the possible deceptions that may lie behind the words, but she never appoints herself custodian of their true meaning, in the way Isaak Glikman did to some extent in his recently published correspondence with Shostakovich (Shostakovich, Chaos statt Musik?...

| Read Full Review of Shostakovich: A Life

Project MUSE

Fay enables her readers to keep track of the possible deceptions that may lie behind the words, but she never appoints herself custodian of their true meaning, in the way Isaak Glikman did to some extent in his recently published correspondence with Shostakovich (Shostakovich, Chaos statt Musik?...

| Read Full Review of Shostakovich: A Life

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