Art Tongue-Tied By Authority: Power and Subversion in Soviet Musical Culture

Artists

Elizabeth Wilson

Keynote Speaker

Approximate running time: 1h 30m without intermission

In English with simultaneous German translation.

Elizabeth Wilson explores Soviet music through Shostakovich, the Soviet Union’s first “home-grown” composer. His position in the limelight—or as scapegoat—was anxiously observed by his contemporaries as an indication as to which way the winds of ideology were blowing. As an artist working under dictatorship, Shostakovich’s very survival necessitated some form of compromise. However, compromise comes in many guises, and Shostakovich soon became a master of “double-speak,” conveying multi-layered meanings in his music. It was his understanding of the power of subversion that allowed him in some way to counteract Stalinist’s repressive cultural ideology. At the intersection of these forces is Shostakovich’s setting of Pasternak’s translation of Shakespeare’s Sonnet No. 66 during the bleakest years of Stalinism:

And art made tongue-tied by authority,
And folly, doctor-like, controlling skill,
And simple truth miscalled simplicity,
And captive good attending captain ill:
Tired with all these, from these would I be gone

 

In English with simultaneous German translation. Headphones will be provided. A valid photo ID (or alternatively € 20) must be presented as a security deposit.

In addition to lectures and music, the exhibition Dry, featuring works by photographer Abdo Shanan, will be on view during the Edward W. Said Days 2020 in the foyer of the Barenboim-Said Akademie.

Elizabeth Wilson

Born in London, Elizabeth Wilson studied cello at the Moscow Conservatory with Mstislav Rostropovich from 1964 to 1971. For the last few decades, she has lived in Italy, dividing her time between performing, teaching, and writing on music and musicians. Her books include a biography of cellist Jacqueline du Pré as well as Mstislav Rostropovich: Musician, Teacher and Legend. Her award-winning Shostakovich: A Life Remembered was published in a second edition in 2006, the same year as her anthology of Shostakovich’s letters, Trascrivere la vita intera. Her books have been translated into Russian, Chinese, Korean, and Japanese. She is currently working on a biography of Russian pianist Maria Yudina.

Reading Recommendations

Elizabeth Wilson, Shostakovitsh – A Life Remembered, 1994