Revisionism in the music history of Dmitry Shostakovich: the Shostakovich Wars
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
The revisionist view of the Soviet Union’s most eminent composer, Shostakovich has been dominant in the American and British press ever since the publication of ex-Soviet journalist Solomon Volkov’s Testimony: The Memoirs of Dmitri Shostakovich as related and edited by Solomon Volkov in 1979. This pre-glasnost book proved to be the opportunity for music journalists to polish up their image of Shostakovich as a closet dissident who had been secretly laughing up his sleeve at the Soviet regime since 1932. This thesis suggests that Solomon Volkov faked the writing of Testimony and claiming that the book was the ‘memoirs of Dmitri Shostakovich’ was dubious at best. A favourite theme of revisionist writers is the perceived relationship between Shostakovich and Stalin. This thesis reveals that there was little interaction between the two despite the wild fantasies of revisionist writers and film makers. The infamous anonymous 1936 Pravda editorial ‘Muddle Instead of Music’ has been the subject of speculation ever since it was written. In the appendix of this thesis is a translation of ‘Mysteries of Lady Macbeth’ a chapter of Leonid Maksimenkov’s Muddle Instead of Music: Stalin’s Cultural Revolution 1936-1938. Archival evidence in this chapter reveals that the Pravda editorial was a product of internal Communist Party rivalry between the Cultural Education Board and the newly-formed Arts Committee. Stalin played no part in the writing of the editorial at all. This explodes many myths that have circulated since 1936 about ‘Muddle Instead of Music’. It seems that Shostakovich was a convenient target selected at random by the ambitious head of the Arts Committee – Platon Kerzhentsev.