Synopses & Reviews
Following Stalin's death in 1953, during the period now known as the Thaw, Nikita Khrushchev opened up greater freedoms in cultural and intellectual life. A broad group of intellectuals and artists in Soviet Russia were able to take advantage of this, and in no realm of the arts was this perhaps more true than in music. Students at Soviet conservatories were at last able to use various channels--many of questionable legality--to acquire and hear music that had previously been forbidden, and visiting performers and composers brought young Soviets new sounds and new compositions. In the 1960s, composers such as Andrey Volkonsky, Edison Denisov, Alfred Schnittke, Arvo Pärt, Sofia Gubaidulina, and Valentin Silvestrov experimented with a wide variety of then new and unfamiliar techniques ranging from serialism to aleatory devices, and audiences eager to escape the music of predictable sameness typical to socialist realism were attracted to performances of their new and unfamiliar creations.
This "unofficial" music by young Soviet composers inhabited the gray space between legal and illegal. Such Freedom, If Only Musical traces the changing compositional styles and politically charged reception of this music, and brings to life the paradoxical freedoms and sense of resistance or opposition that it suggested to Soviet listeners. Author Peter J. Schmelz draws upon interviews conducted with many of the most important composers and performers of the musical Thaw, and supplements this first-hand testimony with careful archival research and detailed musical analyses. The first book to explore this period in detail, Such Freedom, If Only Musical will appeal to musicologists and theorists interested in post-war arts movements, the Cold War, and Soviet music, as well as historians of Russian culture and society.
"Peter Schmelz's book is an impressive achievement. He has researched it with great thoroughness, and offers many subtle and unexpected insights. Such Freedom, If Only Musical is one of the most satisfying books on Russian music that I have read in the past ten years, and quite possibly the best."--Marina Frolova-Walker, University of Cambridge
"A fascinating study of 'unofficial' composers like Denisov, Pärt and Schnittke during the post-Stalin Thaw. Enriched with interviews and archival findings, Peter Schmelz details how they were able to obtain information on twentieth-century Western composers and have their own works performed, despite sanctions that are inconceivable to most Americans. This is required reading for anyone interested in how politics impacts musicians' lives."--Patricia Hall, Editor, Music and Politics
"Schmelz presents a well-researched and well-written account of Soviet musical modernism during the Khrushchev and early Brezhnev eras. The book promises to make a major contribution to the history of twentieth-century music."-- Anne Shreffler, Harvard University
"This pioneering study offers abundant starting points for continuing investigations...Schmelz's book is the powerful and concentrated result of an historical and musicological survey of the unofficial musical landscape in the Soviet Union. Herein lies the great merit of this study."--Osteuropa
"Schmelz's book is thoroughly researched. Its author's command of languages is impressive, and his attention to detail commendable. Schmelz paints a true, recognizable picture of the Soviet musical life during the Thaw-a less majestic picture, perhaps, but a more realistic one. This kind of "representational art" our field sorely needs."-The Russian Review
"Excellent...Schmelz has written a highly engaging and significant book...The book is thought-provoking and elegantly written and should attract the attention of historians interested in social practices and cultural meanings of music produced and consumed in the liminal zone between officially promoted and oppositional music in the Soviet Union and other authoritarian societies." --American Historical Review
"[A] landmark contribution to a still under-studied field...This is an invaluable addition to a steadily growing body of literature dealing with the musical culture of a part of the world that we still tend to overlook." --Slavic and East European Journal
"An outstanding piece of scholarship, rigorously researched and backed by a sensitive, probing attitude to its complex subject." --Notes
About the Author
Peter J. Schmelz
is Assistant Professor of Music at Washington University in St. Louis. His primary area of interest is twentieth-century music (and especially music after 1945), with a focus on the music produced in the Soviet Union, including that by Shostakovich and Schnittke. He received a 2004 National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Stipend, and is Chair and founder of the American Musicological Society's Cold War and Music Study Group.
Table of Contents
Note on transliteration
2. The Dam Bursts: The First and Second Conservatories
3. Andrey Volkonsky and the Beginnings of "Unofficial" Music
4. From "Young" to "Unofficial": Denisov's Sun of the Incas
5. "Unofficial" Venues, Performers, and Audiences
6. From Abstraction to Mimesis, from Control to Freedom: Pärt, Schnittke, Silvestrov, Gubaidulina
7. Denisov's Laments, Volkonsky's Rejoinder
8. Conclusion: The Farewell Symphony
Epilogue: Reflections on Memory and Nostalgia