His critics were quick to put a label on his music: academic, formal. “Like all St. Petersburg composers”, some would say. His critics were also quick to point out that he did not follow a coherent stylistic line, that he failed to give his compositions a distinct signature. Eclecticism – another label. Finally, the fact that he sympathized with the ideas of the “Mighty Five”* discredited him per se in the eyes of his detractors.
Wanderlust. Haven’t we had that before? A recurrent theme in music, a recurrent theme in my posts, in my life. Transcending the daily routine, acceding to new knowledge, meeting new faces… Or going back in time, revisiting my younger me, traveling back into the times of my favourite composers… I can do all that by writing. Writing letters, posts, occasionally poems – what an extraordinary freedom I enjoy!
Freedom from tyranny, salvation, renewed hope – those were the keywords when I started to think about Dmitry Shostakovich’s String Quartet No. 2 in A major, Op. 68. Shostakovich completed it in just 19 days in September 1944. It was the first string quartet he wrote after the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. Three years later the German armies were retreating everywhere while the Red Army had reached the Baltic states and a victory over the Nazi regime appeared inevitable. The composer stayed at the time in a government retreat for artists, some 300 km north-east from Moscow.
Everything is connected – isn’t that so? Whatever we do, it has consequences, big or small, harmless or deadly. Whatever we decide, it affects people around us, positively, negatively. At the end, our life is the sum of our decisions, well-meant, often misguided and mostly overrated as to their importance. A couple of things come together here.