Who's speculating?

Posted 11th March 2000

One of the commonest justifications for ignoring the case advanced by revisionism is that "it's all speculation". John Dalmas adopts this device by quoting Polonius's "very like a whale" as a supposed epitome of revisionist wishful thinking (or naive auto-suggestion under the control of myself as an Hitlerian guru). The paradox is piquant: vague generalising impressionism ascribes its own characteristics to a body of fact, testimony, and argument it prefers not to contend with.

Here are fifty Russians and East Europeans, who, in various ways, have independently conveyed what we in the West call a revisionist view of Shostakovich (sources: Wilson, Ho and Feofanov, DSCH Journal, The War Symphonies):

Ilya Musin, Mstislav Rostropovich, Galina Vishnevskaya, Yuri Lyubimov, Daniil Zhitomirsky, Edison Denisov, Vladimir Zak, Vladimir Rubin, Mikhail Druskin, Marina Sabinina, Maxim Shostakovich, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Flora Litvinova, Lev Lebedinsky, Fyodor Druzhinin, Yevgeny Mravinsky, Alisa Shebalina, Dmitri Tolstoy, Abraam Gozenpud, Mark Aranovsky, Rostislav Dubinsky, Grigori Kozintsev, Rodion Shchedrin, Yuri Temirkanov, Vera Volkova, Yevgeny Yevtushenko, Mariya Konniskaya, Kurt Sanderling, Valery Gergiev, Semyon Bychkov, Yakov Milkis, Boris Khaikin, Natan Perelman, Galina Shostakovich, Gennadi Rozhdestvensky, Zoya Tomachevskaya, Kirill Kondrashin, Rein Laul, Krzysztof Meyer, Natalya Vovsi-Mikhoels, Yuri Yelagin, Isaak Glikman, Rudolf Barshai, Thomas Sanderling, Irina Shostakovich, Isaak Schwartz, Karen Khachaturian, Andrei Bitov, Manashir Yakubov, Vladislav Uspensky.
Quite a substantial "cult" -- and formed, it seems, solely for the purpose of annoying Richard Taruskin.

If it looks like a whale and spouts like a whale, I'd say it's a whale. In the biographical study of any other artist, the overwhelming similarity of views on the part of those acquainted with the subject would have been accepted by now. Taruskin speaks of revisionism as a bubble that's about to burst. Some bubble.

--Ian MacDonald

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