Part Three: 1998 - 1999

SR = Shostakovich Reconsidered
TNS = The New Shostakovich

1998 February 15th. Christopher Norris claims (BBC Radio 3) that no one of consequence endorses Testimony, adding that it is immoral [sic] to suggest that Shostakovich was not a faithful communist and that it is merely "fashionable" to maintain such an opinion.
February 22nd. "Was Shostakovich reluctant to smile because of his unattractive teeth?" enquires an article in The Sunday Telegraph.
June. Shostakovich Reconsidered, by Allan B. Ho and Dmitry Feofanov, is published by Toccata Press with an "Overture" by Vladimir Ashkenazy: "Students and teachers of the [Moscow] Conservatory and the musical community in general... knew without a shadow of a doubt that Shostakovich deeply detested the system in which he lived... When I read Testimony, there was no question in my mind that the real Shostakovich was here in this book... I personally was happy that the rest of the world would now be able to know the truth. Needless to say, the reaction of official Soviet musicology was predictable; what else would one expect from this totalitarian state, this huge Potemkin village, and what, consequently, would one expect from the Soviet stooges in the West? To this day the pointless controversy continues. It is about time that the world ceased to be a victim of totalitarian ideological disinformation. But what I find even more amazing and distressing is that some of the so-called 'experts' on Shostakovich in the West still persist in distorting the facts to suit their arguments, while others show an unacceptable lack of knowledge of the Soviet reality -- and I need hardly emphasise at this stage that without profound (and, I repeat, profound) knowledge of what Shostakovich had to live through, it is virtually impossible to be a serious and credible analyst of his output. It is hard to believe that one such 'expert' writes that Shostakovich was ever 'perhaps the Soviet Union's most loyal musical son' -- and that in 1994! Is it still possible that this musicologist still cannot shed the skin of an agent of influence of the USSR (and there were thousands of them in the West) or that he simply does not possess enough intelligence for this matter?... This book settles the issue once and for all. I am sure that no one in his sane mind, having read the evidence presented by the authors, will ever ask the question of whether Testimony is authentic Shostakovich or not. The answer is that it most definitely is." Taking up this theme in "Shostakovich's Testimony: reply to an unjust criticism", Ho and Feofanov criticise Fay's 1980 essay on Testimony for "subjective and selective editing of the facts": "Fay is guilty of the same inept scholarship of which she accuses Solomon Volkov and of the very same Western naiveté she attributes to supporters of Testimony." They further accuse Richard Taruskin of "insinuations in the style of the tabloid press" and Malcolm H. Brown of "sloppy, selective scholarship", charging Fay, Taruskin, and Brown collectively with "functioning as 'spin doctors' rather than scholars in search of the truth". Shostakovich Reconsidered is nominated "Book of the Year" in The Times Literary Supplement by Robert Conquest. "So thoroughly done it surely puts the onus on Testimony's detractors to return to the stand." -- David Fanning, BBC Music Magazine. "Exposes levels of academic self-delusion that might be condonable under North Korean water torture but seem a tad contorted in the cathedra of Ivy League colleges and the columns of the New Grove Dictionary. -- Norman Lebrecht, The Daily Telegraph. "Sells a message that most of us have already bought, although the sell is certainly persuasive for any who haven't." -- Michael White, The Independent. "Is there still someone in Finland suspecting that Solomon Volkov distorted the words of [Shostakovich]? Suspicions can now be discarded." -- Vesa Sirén, Helsingin Sanomat. "A heinous attack on the integrity of their critics." -- Richard Taruskin, The New York Times. "Ludicrously polemic [sic]." -- Tamara Bernstein, National Post. "A pedantic, fanatical mess." -- Alex Ross, The New Yorker.
June 10th. Norman Lebrecht, "Western scholars who miss the point" (The Daily Telegraph). Lebrecht attacks "Fay and her fellow revisionists" [sic] for contextual naivety: "A dinner-table chat with an undergraduate Sovietologist would have taught these professors a thing or two about life under communism, but their entire training militates against recognising anything that is not written around a five-lined stave. Thus 'official' dedications and inscriptions by Shostakovich are taken to represent his true intention, when they were made under fear of death. The gulf between ivory-tower musicology and the real world has never been wider."
June 12th. Professor Anthony Briggs (BBC Radio 3) on Shostakovich Reconsidered: "A wonderful read, a marvellous book. It's a book about suffering, of course. Shostakovich is about suffering. Well, now Shostakovich's suffering is over, and Volkov's suffering is over, but I suspect that Professor Taruskin's suffering is just beginning."
June. Malcolm H. Brown writes to DSCH Journal 9 in response to Ho and Feofanov's presentation at the American Musicological Society in 1997 [October]. Brown adduces parallel comparisons of the "plagiarized" passages in Testimony and the original texts upon which they are ostensibly based. "The issue," Brown contends, "is not whether Shostakovich had 'a phenomenal, some say photographic memory'. The issue is whether or not Solomon Volkov has a photographic memory!" Brown argues that Volkov's description of his methodology in recording, transcribing, and organising his material is incompatible with the detailed precision of the textual allusion in these passages, let alone the fact that they all occur at the beginning of chapters. "I am prepared to believe that Testimony includes words and ideas communicated by Shostakovich in face-to-face conversations with Volkov. But I doubt Volkov's bald-faced claim that everything in the book came to him 'in dictation' from the mouth of Shostakovich... I continue to consider Testimony to be flawed as a 'primary source'." Allan Ho and Dmitry Feofanov respond: "For decades, Malcolm Hamrick Brown and others have attacked Testimony and its editor, Solomon Volkov, without reporting all the facts: either they have never researched this topic or they have deliberately withheld information that corroborates Testimony. In our article [in DSCH Journal 8, based on their AMS presentation of October 1997], we call attention to 12 major misrepresentations of fact made by Malcolm Hamrick Brown at just one meeting of the American Musicological Society (and in the internet discussion that followed)... Readers will notice that Malcolm Hamrick Brown has failed to respond to 11 of the 12 points we raised... These, however, are just the tip of a massive iceberg: in our book, we reveal numerous other specific instances of opponents of Testimony distorting facts, taking things out of proper context, and, above all, remaining silent on the wealth of evidence that corroborates Testimony... Brown's new assertion (that Volkov himself would have needed a photographic memory to reproduce the recycled texts verbatim) makes no sense." Ho and Feofanov argue that Volkov was more than capable of recording Shostakovich verbatim in shorthand and that Shostakovich Reconsidered supplies "a coherent explanation" for why the recycled material occurs at the beginning of chapters in Testimony. Malcolm H. Brown responds on several points of detail, defending his statements that Maxim Shostakovich's repudiations of Testimony have been "remarkably consistent" over the years, expressing guarded interest that Galina Shostakovich has recently endorsed Testimony, and describing as "lame and self-serving" Elizabeth Wilson's explanation for not including Flora Litvinova's allusion to Shostakovich's confirmation of Solomon Volkov's claims to have interviewed him frequently. Brown denies that this or any other of the omissions and misrepresentations alleged by Ho and Feofanov constitute a "cover-up": "Here go Prof. Ho and Mr Feofanov, yet again painting the picture in sharp black and white and insisting that that is the way it's always been. I can tell you, this is classic Soviet-style denunciation: read the articles in Pravda from the period of the Cold War! It makes me tired just to think about it."
June. Ian MacDonald, "The Turning Point" (DSCH Journal 9). MacDonald welcomes Ho and Feofanov's book; defends Elizabeth Wilson against Malcolm H. Brown; criticises leading anti-revisionists for being "less concerned with truth than with the health of their reputations based on statements they have made in the past"; takes the same writers to task for "intellectual intimidation" and suppressing facts and statements inconvenient to them; predicts an exodus of anti-revisionist opinion to a bogus "central" position in the debate; and severely criticises Richard Taruskin's 1995 essay "Who Was Shostakovich?" (later revised and included in his 1997 collection Defining Russia Musically): "As for [Taruskin's] disgusting assertion that Shostakovich did not suffer a dissident's trials and merely wished to exculpate himself at the end of his life by pretending that he had, this can only be said to represent the last refuge of a scoundrel. If he really does intend to use this slander as a secondary line of defence, he will lose the last rags of scholastic honour still adhering to what remains of his reputation."
August. Hilmar Schmalenberg (ed.), Schostakowitsch in Deutschland. Schmalenberg is a leading German revisionist.
September. David Fanning (BBC Music Magazine) reviews Ho and Feofanov's Shostakovich Reconsidered: "'Even though the meaning of Shostakovich's music is crystal-clear for those "with ears to listen", as the composer was wont to say, many, especially among those who should know better -- musicologists -- continue to misinterpret Shostakovich's art.' That sentence says it all. Indignation, presumption, schoolmasterly condescension, all supported by a conviction that 'the meaning of Shostakovich's music' is not only 'crystal-clear' but equivalent to ideological content... How did commentary about one of the greatest composers of our century sink to such a level? Well, you could say it never had far to fall... Middle-of-the-road views were overwhelmed in 1979 by Solomon Volkov's Testimony, billed as the composer's memoirs... Since the appearance of Ian MacDonald's The New Shostakovich in 1990, the mud-slinging has begun to look more like mud-wrestling. Scholars who have devoted careers to countering Soviet propaganda but who have dared to deviate from the pure Testimony line are now accused of presenting Shostakovich as 'a craven lackey... a devout and unwavering communist' (Norman Lebrecht in The Daily Telegraph). Anyone (like me) who views the ideological question as just one of many interesting areas which make up the untranslatable and unconfinable 'meaning' of Shostakovich's music, is declared a believer in Pure Music (asserts MacDonald in Shostakovich Reconsidered) whose 'entire training and method militates against recognizing anything that is not written around a five-lined stave' (Lebrecht). If anyone can tell me where this arcane sect resides, I'll gladly keep my distance from it. Leaving aside such paranoia, the Testimony affair is a fascinating one, and well worth the 300 pages Ho and Feofanov devote to it... Their defence of Testimony proceeds in courtroom terms, cross-examining and painstakingly discrediting objections one by one. This is so thoroughly done it surely puts the onus on Testimony's detractors to return to the stand, as no doubt they will..." Fanning goes on to criticise Ho, Feofanov, and MacDonald for allegedly taking out of context Richard Taruskin's "loyal son" phrase, for exaggerating the extent to which Maxim and Galina Shostakovich endorse Testimony, and for ungentlemanly conduct in insulting opponents. Fanning dismisses MacDonald's essay "Naive Anti-Revisionism" as "an 81-page diatribe". He concludes: "Be prepared for a few more revelations, and probably a lot more bad-mouthing on all sides, before you retire to consider your verdict. And don't expect to discover too much about the meaning of Shostakovich's music in the process."
September 28th. Manhattan School of Music Seminar on Shostakovich. Boris Gasparov analyses the Fourth Symphony as vivid depiction of the horrors of its time. Elizabeth Wilson speaks of Shostakovich's artistic role as the musical conscience of his people. She believes that Testimony contains the spirit of Shostakovich, but she is in doubt as to which of its statements are the composer's own. Wilson thinks it unfair to accuse Laurel Fay of "selective scholarship" and dislikes Ho and Feofanov's style of presentation. Concerning selective scholarship in her own book (1996, December), she replies: "Anyone writing a book about Shostakovich is bound to have to be selective given the interest of the subject. Mine was 500 pages long and could have been a lot longer." Wilson speaks also on the true story behind the Eighth Quartet and discusses Shostakovich's phenomenal memory. Yuri Temirkanov describes Soviet attempts to "discourage" him from performing Shostakovich's Thirteenth Symphony. (Report of the seminar by Louis Blois, DSCH Journal 10.)
October 17th. Edward Rothstein (The New York Times): "A generation after the death of this complex figure, [Shostakovich's] music continues to recall his awful times; now it is spurring scholarship into passions that echo, in their distress and anger, the moral urgency of the music."
November 1st. The American Musicological Society annual meeting in Boston gives the floor to the Shostakovich debate. Allan Ho speaks against Laurel Fay's 1980 essay "Shostakovich versus Volkov: whose Testimony?", summarising arguments in Shostakovich Reconsidered. David Fanning (see DSCH Journal 11) challenges Solomon Volkov to produce the notes of his conversations with Shostakovich in 1971-4. (Volkov elsewhere states that his notes were left in the USSR when he emigrated and may since have been destroyed by the KGB.) Fanning further defends Richard Taruskin against the use, allegedly out of context, of his 1989 phrase "Thus was Shostakovich, perhaps Soviet Russia's most loyal musical son and certainly its most talented one, made a sacrificial lamb". Taruskin argues that neither he nor Fay ever argued that Testimony was entirely false, but maintains that Volkov perpetrated a fraud. Bernard Holland reports: "'To call Shostakovich a Communist is the ultimate insult,' said Dmitry Feofanov, a pianist and a lawyer. Richard Taruskin, a joyously contentious music historian, rose from the audience to defend his belief that the composer was 'perhaps Soviet Russia's most loyal musical son'." (In fact, Taruskin stated that his "loyal son" phrase was meant ironically.)
November 2nd. Tamara Bernstein (National Post) reviews Ho and Feofanov's Shostakovich Reconsidered: "A scurrilous volume... A book that claims to prove Soviet composer Dmitri Shostakovich was a dissident. Yet its authors can only argue their case by appropriating the tried and true [sic] techniques of Stalinism to silence those who dare to see things differently... Anyone who fails to see Shostakovich as a rabid dissenter is labelled a KGB agent or sympathiser, a 'spin doctor' -- or just plain stupid... The 787-page book is essentially a sophomoric attack on three of the most eloquent and informed Shostakovich scholars in the West: Laurel Fay, Berkeley musicologist Richard Taruskin, and Malcolm Brown, another musicologist who dared to question the Volkov line... The Taruskin and Fay who appear in Shostakovich Reconsidered are unrecognizable -- figments, one feels, of the authors' overwrought and paranoid imaginations... The reader who can wade through contributor Ian MacDonald's hysterical tirades against Taruskin should know that MacDonald -- author of a ham-fisted biography of Shostakovich in which he finds anti-Stalinist messages in every note the composer wrote -- has a long-standing vendetta against the U.S. musicologist... Clearly these are not people from whom one would rush to purchase a used car. By distorting the work of fine scholars, what amounts to an intellectual reign of terror, Volkov's rabid apologists have proven that the spirit of the Soviet Union is alive and well -- and living, tragically, in some of the very people who fled it."
November 21st. Paul Bailey (The Daily Telegraph): "There are those who believe [Testimony] to be a fake, and that the composer was a Soviet stooge. It is clear from his chamber music alone that he was nothing of the sort."
November/December. Paul Moor (American Record Guide) reviews Shostakovich Reconsidered: "When Testimony appeared in 1979, Moscow's Communist establishment immediately savaged Volkov's book as total fraud. So, curiously, did certain Western musicologists, especially in the USA, led by Malcolm Brown, Laurel Fay, and Richard Taruskin. Together, they soon erected a massive anti-Volkov fortress, and kept pots of boiling oil ever at the ready to dump on anyone challenging their depiction of Shostakovich as a good Communist or at the very least a thoroughly willing fellow traveller. [Now] Allan Ho, also a musicologist, and Dmitry Feofanov, a music-loving bilingual attorney, energetically set out to do to Brown, Fay, and Taruskin what a sledge-hammer customarily does to a tent-stake. They conclude by issuing not only Shostakovich but also Solomon Volkov -- who has for years suffered in dignified silence -- an unconditionally clean bill of political, ethical, and moral health... The New York Times, incidentally, frequently provides Taruskin a platform, and has ignored requests from his adversaries -- with scholarly credentials at least as imposing as his own -- for equal space to rebut him."
Winter. Ian MacDonald, "Witnesses for the Defence: testimonies concerning Shostakovich's attitudes to the Soviet regime" (DSCH Journal 10). A sketch of the main stages of the Shostakovich debate, followed by an analysis of the testimony of witnesses assembled by Elizabeth Wilson in Shostakovich: A Life Remembered.
Winter. Ian MacDonald, "Shostakovich's Moral Anti-Communism" (DSCH Journal 10): "Laurel Fay has shown herself, at candid length, to be calamitously ignorant of Soviet history... Unlike Fay's, some of Taruskin's history is both factually and interpretatively sound, yet these successes exist in the shadow of a range of mind-boggling blunders and distortions which discredit what little there is of value among his few writings about the composer. By his callous castigation of the ethics of averagely imperfect folk who lived under circumstances of political terror beyond the capacity of a choleric American music professor to conceive, he betrays a gross insensitivity to nuance and a distressing lack of simple human sympathy. This indelicacy, combined with his rudimentary acquaintance with the facts and tone of cultural life under Stalinism, is crippling... It's long past time for the anti-revisionists to supply evidence of their intellectual competence. Put up, ladies and gentlemen, or shut up."
Winter. Yevgeny Svetlanov, interviewed by DSCH, demurs with the idea that Shostakovich's work contains "double meanings": "In my view, all that he wrote -- it was entirely from the heart. Of course, I often hear the theories -- that he composed secretive, double-intentioned works. And many critics can, and have made their careers from this kind of thing. Indeed the debate could well last eternally -- but I don't want to be a part of it. I am absolutely persuaded that Shostakovich was first and foremost an honest man, in his life he was a man of crystal purity -- and all that he wrote is of this same crystal purity, be it the Fourth Symphony or the operetta Moscow Cheryomushki, the Thirteenth Symphony or The Songs of the Forest [sic]. They are all marvellous works." (DSCH does not ask after Svetlanov's thoughts on Rayok.)
Winter. DSCH Journal 10 includes a comprehensive digest of reaction to Ho and Feofanov's Shostakovich Reconsidered.
1999 January. Julian Haylock (Classic FM): "It is largely due to Volkov and the work of music writer Ian MacDonald that our perception of what Shostakovich's music is all about has fundamentally altered."
February 15th. Shostakovich Conference at Mannes School of Music, New York. Solomon Volkov, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Dmitry Feofanov, Allan Ho, and Martin Anderson (Toccata Press) answer questions from the audience. Solomon Volkov: "I don't regret that for these twenty years I maintained silence on my own. I could only add that there were very few, if any, direct appeals to me from somebody that I would think about as an objective scholar, to reply to. I must admit that I never read this famous -- or infamous, as you wish -- Fay's article, to the end. Because I stopped reading it when I saw that she's misrepresenting the facts, she's distorting the facts. I saw that this is not an objective investigation. And the same was true for any subsequent attempts to discredit the book. I never believed that the people who stood behind it were disinterested scholars. I couldn't, as a former Soviet citizen, discern to what extent the KGB and its Misinformation Department were involved. I only learned the many details of it subsequently, here, in New York. And this involvement was very, very substantial. About the interpolations -- I was not aware of them before Fay's article. I have a number of theories about how it happened. One thing about Testimony that I'm sure about and that's that while the book probably has many flaws, it's an absolutely honest book. But, at the time I was doing this book with Shostakovich, I was relatively young, and inexperienced in constructing a big book. Now probably I would edit it more carefully, I would construct it better, and so on. Second, that it wasn't written in the comfort of New York. It was done in the Soviet Union of the early '70s, in a very nervous atmosphere, in a hurry. And that's how, probably, you know, these... If I would have done more research then, in the Soviet Union, on this subject, probably I would have uncovered this. And then I would have decided, then I would have made my editing decisions more wisely... Somehow people assume that I, a young journalist and writer, could fool this all-time genius into signing something which he wasn't aware of how it would be used. You should imagine the real situation. I was awed by this man. I never asked him to sign anything. It was his initiative to do so. I always considered myself to be a vessel which the thoughts and ideas of Shostakovich went through. Nothing less, but nothing more as well." Terry Teachout (Time and Commentary): "I'm one of the people who questioned, in print, the documentary accuracy of Testimony. Having read Shostakovich Reconsidered carefully, I believe that [Testimony] is both accurate and authentic. Mr. Volkov, I would like to apologize to you for what I said in print." Vladimir Ashkenazy: "I lived in the Soviet Union. I met Shostakovich. I had inside knowledge of how we reacted to Shostakovich's presence in the Soviet Union, Shostakovich's image. I wanted to convey our understanding of what we knew about his attitude to the Soviet system, his tremendous contempt for the system in which he lived. When I read Testimony, I thought "Oh, at last, the world knows what Shostakovich was like. That's about time the people know about it." There was not a shred of doubt in my mind or in the minds of my colleagues, musicians from the Soviet Union. It was an absolutely genuine presentation of Shostakovich's mind, what he meant in his music, etc. So, as far as I'm concerned, it's 100%." Dmitry Feofanov: "I don't think Shostakovich felt the need to make ideological statements. But I have to explain to people here that, during our lives in what was then the Soviet Union, we were, by necessity, very politically sensitive. Because our survival depended on that. Ideology played probably a very important role in Shostakovich's life -- not because he wanted it to, but because that's the way it was." Allan Ho: "Richard Taruskin, Malcolm Brown, and Laurel Fay have not reported 99% of the information that's included in our book. I raise the question: is it a cover-up to protect personal egos and professional reputations? Is it complacency, because they thought the case was solved in 1989? Is it incompetence? They are the only ones who can answer these questions."
May 27th-June 12th. Chicago Shostakovich Festival. St Petersburg musicologist Margarite Mazo: "Those of us who were 'in the know' were always searching for the second layer of meaning in his music."
Summer. Irina Shostakovich interviewed by Alexandre Brussilovsky (DSCH Journal 11). To what extent did Shostakovich share with her his creative ideas? "He didn't share his ideas, not with me nor with any other person for that matter... One day, he was thinking of writing a suite on the verses of Alexander Blok, and he asked me to tell him which verses I preferred. I agreed good-heartedly to this request, underlining the best-known Blok verses, but to my great disillusionment, Shostakovich didn't even glance at my choice." What does she think of Testimony? "To be frank, not much... It has played its part in the description of the general atmosphere in which the life of Shostakovich's generation unfolded. But it is not possible to place one's confidence in it completely... If a Russian version existed, it would be easy to determine the article from which [Volkov] drew for such-and-such an episode. I think that Volkov is quite simply afraid to publish this book in Russian. In reality, he visited D. Shostakovich three times, their conversation was not taken down in shorthand, he didn't have a tape recorder, he contented himself with making some notes in his notebook. He was thinking of publishing this in the magazine Russian Music [sic] for which he worked. He showed his notes to Shostakovich; they took up a small packet. Shostakovich didn't read them. I know this because at that moment I returned to his office. During this episode, with Volkov irritating him continually, Shostakovich signed each page without sitting down and without reading it. When Volkov left, I asked him why he had signed all these pages. To which he replied that there was a rule that demanded that each page be signed in Shostakovich's hand, otherwise they wouldn't have accepted Volkov's texts." [Cf. Galina Shostakovich: "Shostakovich did sign some stupid articles about inconsequential subjects without reading them, but he would not have signed something this big and important without reading it." SR, p. 83.]
Summer. Ian MacDonald, "Centre and pseudo-centre" (DSCH Journal 11). MacDonald argues that claims -- by, among others, Louis Blois and David Fanning -- that the truth about Shostakovich lies at a point of "balance" between "extreme" positions are, in fact, emollient evasions: "The essence of pseudo-centrism is vagueness -- vagueness about the background and vagueness of assertion. It is a position which depends on general claims that Soviet reality is insusceptible to rational interrogation and that all testimony and evidence emanating from it is equally suspect. The ultimate motive of pseudo-centrism is to reduce the role of context in Shostakovich criticism by making context itself appear unstable. A phenomenon which has been predictable for the last two or three years, pseudo-centrism will doubtless be the future sanctuary for pundits migrating from the extremity of anti-revisionism; as such, pseudo-centrist commentary will always, whether or not it admits this, implicitly favour anti-revisionist interpretations over revisionist ones." MacDonald further criticises a recent anti-revisionist article by Barbara Amiel and Tamara Bernstein's 1994 CBC radio documentary series on Shostakovich; summarises the argument over Richard Taruskin's "loyal son" phrase; and analyses some of David Fanning's assumptions about Shostakovich, including his "ideological" beliefs, concluding: "The evidence at present indicates that Shostakovich was, in varying degrees, a non-Party apolitical moralist from his youth to his later years (when just such a description of him is supplied by observers like Boris Tishchenko, Edison Denisov, Nikolai Karetnikov, and Grigori Kozintsev)."
Summer. Allan Ho and Dmitry Feofanov respond (DSCH Journal 11) to David Fanning's review of Shostakovich Reconsidered (1998 [September]): "In fairness to us, as well as to the readers of BBC Music Magazine, it would have been proper for David Fanning to acknowledge, up front, his very real conflicts of interest in reviewing our book. For example, he does not make clear that five of the principal contributors (himself, Laurel Fay, Richard Taruskin, Manashir Yakubov, and Eric Roseberry) to his own book, Shostakovich Studies, are the very ones whose scholarship is challenged in Shostakovich Reconsidered, nor does he mention that Ian MacDonald's article 'Naive Anti-Revisionism', which Fanning criticizes, is, in large part, a negative review of his own book." Ho and Feofanov go on to deny taking Taruskin's "loyal son" phrase out of context, to deride Taruskin's suggestion that this phrase was meant ironically, and to repudiate Fanning's charge that they exaggerate the extent to which Maxim and Galina Shostakovich endorse Testimony.
September. St Petersburg Shostakovich Conferences.
October. Terry Teachout, "The Composer and the Commissar" (Commentary). Based on Ho and Feofanov's Shostakovich Reconsidered (1998) and the Mannes Conference [above, February], Teachout withdraws his previous reservations about Testimony. Richard Taruskin writes against Teachout's article in the following issue of Commentary, accusing Teachout of "Stalinist tactics". Taruskin dismisses Shostakovich Reconsidered as "a massive attempt to prove Testimony's veracity through hearsay corroboration of its contents". Taruskin further asserts that Fay's criticisms have not been met by Ho and Feofanov and that no one can know which parts of Testimony are "authentic and true" until Solomon Volkov "comes clean" about the details of his role in compiling the book: "In all likelihood Testimony is an amalgam of the authentic and the inauthentic, the veridical and the inveridical... Many of the stories in Testimony circulated in oral tradition long before Volkov published them. I heard many of them myself as an exchange student in Moscow in 1971-72. I believed many of them at the time, and I still do." Terry Teachout replies: "It is a novel experience for me to stand accused of engaging in 'Stalinist tactics'. On the other hand, I cannot imagine being surprised by anything Richard Taruskin might possibly say about me, however preposterous. Readers of Commentary may not recognize Mr. Taruskin's stock rhetorical strategies -- the sky-high dudgeon, the sneering, arrogant bluster, the disingenuous distortions of inconvenient fact -- but writers on musical subjects will find his letter characteristic... Those who dare to take issue with his sometimes highly idiosyncratic opinions are likely to find themselves on the receiving end of the sort of ad-hominem abuse he habitually decries (and not infrequently imagines) in others. It is a pity that the peculiarities of his temperament have apparently rendered him incapable of participating in civilized and intellectually honest debate... I know a planted axiom when I see one, and Mr. Taruskin's letter rests on one: he contends that the problem of the authenticity of Testimony cannot be settled until Volkov 'comes clean', presumably meaning that any evidence short of a confession by Volkov of plagiarism is 'hearsay', and thus irrelevant. (It should come as no surprise that Mr. Taruskin declined to attend the New York press conference held last February at which Volkov, for the first time ever, publicly answered questions about Testimony from the press and other interested parties.) In fact -- as Mr. Taruskin knows perfectly well, and as my article makes perfectly clear -- the only way to establish the authenticity of Testimony is through the use of hearsay evidence... Anyone who understands the nature of the Soviet regime should recognize that the 'process of scholarly testing' to which Mr. Taruskin pays ritual homage in his letter is simply not applicable to a book written in secret, under conditions of totalitarian repression and surveillance. In cases such as these, one must perforce deal in probabilities, and judging by the evidence amassed by Ho and Feofanov and (very briefly) summarized in my article, it seems to me highly probable that Testimony is authentic -- that, in other words, Shostakovich and Volkov did indeed have numerous conversations that formed the basis for a first-person memoir ghost-written by Volkov and subsequently approved by the composer... Surely it is to the point that Testimony is believed to be both authentic and true by a great many people who, unlike Richard Taruskin or Laurel Fay, knew Shostakovich intimately, including his son and daughter. As it happens, Shostakovich Reconsidered is only partly about Fay's article. The bulk of the book is devoted to an equally detailed refutation of what Ho and Feofanov believe to be gross misrepresentations by Western commentators of key aspects of Shostakovich's life and work. Mr. Taruskin himself comes in for frequent and severe criticism, not least for his oft-quoted remark that the composer was 'perhaps Soviet Russia's most loyal son'; in his introduction, for example, Vladimir Ashkenazy responds to this fantastic claim by suggesting that 'this musicologist... simply does not possess enough intelligence' to know better. One can hardly blame Mr. Taruskin for passing over such criticisms in silence, but they suggest that what he has to say about Shostakovich Reconsidered -- not to mention my own article -- should be viewed with due skepticism."
November. Laurel Fay's Shostakovich: A Life is published in New York. Fay reflects in her Introduction: "Writing about Shostakovich remains laced with political and moral subtexts. At its most extreme, it simply replaces one orthodoxy with another, reversing the polaritites of the old, shopworn Soviet clichés: the true-believing Communist citizen-composer is inverted into an equally unconvincing caricature of a lifelong closet dissident. The challenges Shostakovich confronted as a creative artist, a Soviet citizen, a family man, and an individual were a great deal more complicated, likewise his strategies for dealing with them. There is a pressing need to sort fact from fiction, substance from speculation, the man from the myths... Memoirs and interviews have loomed large among the fresh evidence gathered. Glasnost untied the tongues of millions who had been intimidated, or censored, into silence during the Soviet era. Since Shostakovich symbolized something very important in their lives, and since his presumption to 'greatness' seems unassailable, it is not surprising that many have hastened to set down their personal reminiscences of the man. As fascinating and useful as these can be, memoirs furnish a treacherous resource to the historian. Reminiscences can be self-serving, vengeful, and distorted by faulty memory, selective amnesia, wishful thinking, and exaggeration. They can be rife with gossip and rumor. The temptation to recast the past to suit the present -- especially now, when the victims and survivors of the Soviet 'experiment' are grappling with discomfiting issues of complicity and culpability with a shameful past -- can be hard to resist. In any case, factual accuracy is not generally one of their most salient features. Memoirs need to be treated with extreme care, evaluated critically, and corroborated by reference to established facts... I have not excluded the evidence of memoirs -- Soviet, ex-Soviet and post-Soviet -- but I have treated it with the utmost caution, filtering out false or improbable allegations and screening for bias and hidden agendas... Instead of relying on the accuracy of secondary sources for documentation, I have gone back to period newspapers, concert programs and reviews, personnel files, transcripts, letters, and diaries to reconstruct as precise a chronology of Shostakovich's life and works as the available evidence will permit... Unfortunately there is not a single even remotely reliable resource in Russian, English, or any other language for the basic facts about Shostakovich's life and work...[Sofiya] Khentova's study seems an absolute gold mine of dates, names, and detail unavailable anywhere else. In fact, it is a minefield of misinformation, incorrect dates and facts, errors of every stripe... Whether Testimony faithfully reproduces Shostakovich's confidences, and his alone, in a form and context he would have recognized and approved for publication, remains doubtful. Yet even were its claim to authenticity not in doubt, Testimony would still furnish a poor resource for the serious biographer. The embittered, "death-bed" disclosures of someone ravaged by illness, with festering psychological wounds and scores to settle, are not to be relied on for accuracy, fairness, or balance when recreating the impact of the events of a lifetime as they actually occurred. Such reflections may even willfully mislead. They cannot be taken at face value and must be scrupulously verified. Since Testimony is highly anecdotal anyhow, offering little specificity about the composer's activities or music, I have found it of little use... Shostakovich himself was obliged to reinvent his past on occasion... To allow [my] book to function as a resource, I have endeavoured to lay out the circumstances of Shostakovich's life in as balanced and objective a manner as possible." Dust-jacket comment: "An immensely important book." -- Michael Steinberg. "Clear-eyed, straightforward, copiously researched, sympathetic, objective, and uncluttered by cold-war or post cold-war myths." -- Malcolm H. Brown. "Laurel Fay has erected the platform upon which truly informed interpretation and debate concerning Shostakovich's works and legacy can now take place." -- Richard Taruskin.
November 28th. Sudip Bose (The Washington Post) reviews Fay's Shostakovich: A Life: "At times an unreliable book that portrays Shostakovich as a nervous Soviet patriot, 'a "true son" of the Communist Party' who 'ceded unconditionally his signature, his voice, his time, and his physical presence to all manner of propaganda legitimizing the party'. This caricature of the composer betrays a bewildering naiveté about the climate of terror and intimidation in which Shostakovich was forced to work... On the subject of Shostakovich's music, Fay is startlingly silent. Why, in a book with fewer than 300 pages of text, does Fay give such scant attention to the analysis of Shostakovich's scores? It's almost as if she's afraid to approach them for fear of what they'll reveal... Anyone who wants to explore the connection between the composer's conscience and the world that shaped it need only listen to his music with open mind and open ears."
Winter. Ian MacDonald reviews Fay's Shostakovich: A Life at length at this website, pointing out many significant omissions and misrepresentations. Fay's basic biographically methodology is challenged as "incoherent" and "deceitful": "It seems that she ignores whatever does not suit her. This 'blind eye' methodology has the further advantage, so far as Fay is concerned, of allowing her to imply that nothing of significance has appeared in the last twenty years with regard to the issue of who Shostakovich was. Whether this is the stance of a respectable scholar is doubtful, although another supposedly respectable scholar, Richard Taruskin, displays no qualms in applauding her procedural vagaries: 'Laurel Fay has erected a platform upon which truly informed interpretation and debate concerning Shostakovich's works and legacy can now take place.' As a commentator who deems Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk to be an apologia for Stalin's genocide in the Ukraine, whose account of the Soviet reception of the Fifth Symphony is (as Fay's narrative confirms) not so much misleading as fraudulent, and who claims he was being 'ironic' by describing Shostakovich as 'perhaps Soviet Russia's most loyal musical son', Taruskin is a less than dependable authority. In reality, Fay's reliance on intrinsically corrupt Soviet sources has merely ensured that the majority of planks in her 'platform' are rotten... Fay's methodology -- rely on Soviet sources, distrust those who knew Shostakovich -- is blatantly indefensible and, if attempted in any other field of Soviet study, would result in such basic attacks from fellow academics as to prejudice her continuance as a scholar. The approval expressed on her book's dust-jacket by Richard Taruskin and Malcolm Hamrick Brown reveals a major academic scandal: endorsement of a false methodology from the leading figures at America's two main centres for the study of Russian and Soviet music. As is shown by her misleadingly selective quotations from Rostropovich on Shostakovich's signing of the Sakharov letter and from Joachim Braun on the '"secret language" of dissent' in From Jewish Folk Poetry, we cannot even be sure that the sources which Fay arbitrarily admits as legitimate are dependably used by her -- and nor is her way with facts more reliable. Contrary to assurances of balance and objectivity, her account of From Jewish Folk Poetry is tendentious and flies in the face of any sensible deduction. Much the same goes for her conclusions regarding the Eleventh Symphony's relationship with the Hungarian Uprising, a verdict which ignores testimony already published in English in Elizabeth Wilson's book. In her coverage of the post-Stalin period, Fay persists in presenting Shostakovich as authentically making statements in Pravda, Izvestiya, and other Soviet publications and arenas (statements which around a dozen of those who knew him insist were ghostwritten on his behalf and merely attributed to him); in doing so, she falsely describes him as "allowing" this, as if he had any say in the matter. Attempting to prove his political orthodoxy, she falsely claims that, after the Tenth Symphony, Shostakovich devoted "a disproportionately large portion of his music to the greater glory of Socialist Realism". As with her account of From Jewish Folk Poetry, Fay's account of the circumstances surrounding Shostakovich's joining of the Communist Party in 1960 is blatantly unbalanced, downplaying the testimony of those closest to him at the time. Similarly, her descriptions of three "Lenin" pieces -- the "Lenin Symphony" of the period 1938-41, the Twelfth Symphony of the period 1959-61, and the song-cycle Loyalty of the period 1968-70 -- fail to come to the obvious conclusion that he had no enthusiasm for writing music about Lenin. Malcolm Hamrick Brown describes Shostakovich: A Life as "copiously researched" -- yet, apart from a few corrected dates, there seem to be no cases of original research in this book at all. Certainly there is no fresh interview material. Instances abound of cases where such original research is clearly demanded but not fulfilled... Richard Taruskin -- in any other circumstance willing to push the case for irreducible subjectivity to absurdity -- is, it transpires, willing to describe Shostakovich: A Life as "a reliable book to consult for the facts of [the composer's] life". Were a revisionist to make the claims for objectivity advanced by Fay, Taruskin would respond with his familiar "no one can be sure of anything whatever about Shostakovich" disquisition. Indeed, those who prefer to believe that Shostakovich and the Soviet background are innately impenetrable -- such, invariably, being people who know little about these issues and do not intend to remedy this -- will probably enjoy being confused by Fay. The fact remains that those who give a good review to this dismal, devious, and at times dishonest book are merely signing a certificate of their incompetence as judges."

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