When the Soviet Avant-garde Raised its Voice

Denisov Sonata Cello Piano
Mediation about life. © Charles Thibo

Dmitry Shostakovich was his teacher and mentor, but the student went beyond the limits Shostakovich had helped to define. In the Soviet Union this was quite an achievement. Edison Denisov moves into the realm of sound clusters and minimal music that others have explored before, albeit in an environment where creativity and expressivity were less restricted: György Ligeti in West Germany, Luciano Berio in Italy, Steve Reich in the United States. How did this square with the doctrine of “Socialist Realism” that Soviet music was to follow?

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Soul-searching with Dmitry’s Second Cello Concerto

The Unknown. © Charles Thibo

Eery. That’s what it is – eery. Shostakovich’s second cello concerto. I am currently playing one of Shostakovich’s preludes and will embark on learning the corresponding fugue soon. Odd accords, odd sound, odd melodies. Shostakovich’s music is odd and he was the odd man out among the Soviet Union’s composers. Subversive in sounds and thoughts. Ambiguous whenever possible. That’s probably the reason why I love his music.

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A Quartet Written on the Way to Tashkent

Weinberg Quartet2_edited-1
Time has come. © Charles Thibo

It is rather striking that I have never mentioned the composer Mieczyslaw Weinberg. He was a pupil of Dmitry Shostakovitch. I love Shostakovich’s music. And so far I ignored Weinberg. My first encounter with this composer was, let’s say, unfruitful. It was too early. Now it seems to me that it is almost too late.

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Diving Deep into Prokofiev’s Soul

Under tension. © Charles Thibo

A man has fallen in love. A man is tormented by the death of his oldest friend. A man discovers the reality – i.e. the terrorizing power – of the Soviet Union. A man is torn between the wish to survive and the desire for free artistic expression. A man is looking in awe at the tremendous cost of war – in terms of human lives. A man wonders about the kind of world he is living in. He feels his destiny and he feels the infinite weight of his destiny on his shoulders. A man conceives three piano sonatas at a time and finishes one by one over a time span of five years, one more elaborate and impressive than the other. Sergei Prokofiev’s War Sonatas are not only some of the most remarkable pieces the composer has ever written, they are also a landmark in classical music.

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