<<< << -- 4 -- Howard Smith HAUNTING IMAGERY -- >> >>>
Amidst a climate of prevailing joylessness the composer could only
wonder at Joe Stalin's remonstrations and paucity of vision. 'A symphony
must rejoice', says our leader, 'to give us a good life and gain his
In April (just eleven months before) during the Soviet Composers'
Union Congress, Shostakovich had been compelled to publicly repent
compositions decreed as failing to serve the state. 'To reach
the people, that is the question', he concluded; 'but
how is it to be done? I should have said no at the
beginning, like Mandelstam', he muses privately.
Elsewhere, as Stalin vets NKVD files, we witness him scoring out poet
Osip Mandelstam's name -- the poet once wrote: 'Only in Russia poetry is
respected -- it gets people killed. Is there anywhere else where poetry
is so common a motive for murder?' But poetry was just one of innumerable
motives. Army general, Tuchachevsky (died 1937)
[watch and listen -- chapter 5, 14:47-16:07];
(died 1938); Theatre producer-director, Meyerhold (died 1940) and a host of
others became victims of the regime. Thankfully, in hindsight,
'What are they afraid I'll do', Shostakovich
reflects incredulously -- 'a harmony too problematic for
the people ?'
Further highlights include home scenes at the piano with the
Shostakovich children, Maxim (Mark Asquith, as a child / Nicholas
Fry, as an adult) and Gayla (Magdalen Asquith, as a child) and, years later, a visit to
Babi Yar ravine with daughter Gayla (Rowena Parr, as an adult).
Copyright © 26 August 2007
Howard Smith, Masterton, New Zealand