Irina on the Eleventh Symphony

Posted 14th March 2000

This will be my last post to DSCH-L until August and I will not, meanwhile, be reading posts made to the List. I'll answer posts addressed to me between now and then when I come back.

Before I depart, I would like to request anyone planning to congratulate Bernard Holland on his opinions to bring to his attention the following exchange between Irina Shostakovich and Margarita Mazo, a former professor of music history at St Petersburg Conservatory (recorded in DSCH Journal 12, p. 72):

MM: Is the Eleventh Symphony about the Hungarian Uprising?

IS: The symphony was written in 1957 at the time when these events occurred. What happened was viewed with great gravity by everyone. There are no direct references to the 1956 events in the symphony, but Shostakovich had them in mind.

MM: Those of us who were "in the know" were always searching for the second layer of meaning in his music.

IS: In the same manner, in the Michelangelo Verses there is a parallel between Dante's expulsion from Italy and Solzhenitsyn's exile from the Soviet Union.

This reminds me to point out that Irina Shostakovich, as Vice President of the International Shostakovich Association (Paris-Moscow), endorses the ISA's founding declaration:

The Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich, whose music is known and played throughout the world, continues to acquire new and ever more fervent admirers. He epitomises the most noble traditions and values of our civilization. The personality of Shostakovich proved a powerful moral influence on his contemporaries. During the hard and cruel era of Stalinism, he had the courage to express in his music the misery of his people by means of an extraordinary dramatic feeling, and to denounce the hidden forces which were then eliminating millions of human lives. His music became a moral support for all who were persecuted. Belief in the final victory of justice, instilled through his works, transformed his music into a powerful stimulus to the spirit of resistance and freedom. The inner power of his music, always of great vividness, enriches the many thousands of new listeners who discover it with eagerness and pleasure. Thus, even after his death, Dmitri Shostakovich continues to lead the world towards light and reason. His work, of universal value, is recognised by all.

Those on the List who seek a definition of revisionism will find its essential premises contained in this statement.

--Ian MacDonald

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