Monday, May 23, 2011

Private worlds: Shostakovich's string quartets, plus some...

Shockingly negligent of me not to bring you my column from the May issue of Standpoint any earlier. It is a good look at a new book by Wendy Lesser, editor of The Threepenny Review in New York: Music for Silenced Voices, tracing the life of Shostakovich as seen through his string quartets.

Her thesis is that these works, being the most private and least available to Communist Party interference, tell us more about the composer's inner world than any of his other music, and I'm inclined to agree with her. The volume also raises important issues about how books on music can be written by, and pitched towards, people who have been denied access to the traditional vocabulary for talking about music, and proves that it can be done - and well. It shows, too, that those who for some reason haven't had music in their lives any sooner can still want to listen, learn and write when they finally discover it. Read the whole thing here.