Artists

Elizabeth Wilson

Speaker

Mena Mark Hanna

Introduction

Elizabeth Wilson
Art Tongue-Tied by Authority: Power and Subversion in Soviet Musical Culture

British writer, biographer, and cellist 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.

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.