(1936) CHANGES IN THE SOVIET - Shostakovich Affair Shows Shift in Point Of View in the U.S.S.R. - Article - NYTimes.com
Waylan Choy stashed this in Luminaries
1936 - ACCORDING to news dispatches and communications sent direct to this department of THE TIMES, the Russian composer Shostakovich has been ordered by the Soviet Government to take in the future an entirely different direction than the one he took in his opera, "Lady Macbeth of Mzensk."
"...condemned as formalist, "coarse, primitive and vulgar," a fatal article "Muddle Instead of Music" was thought to have been instigated by Stalin. Consequently, commissions began to fall off, and his income fell by about three quarters. Even Soviet music critics who had praised the opera were forced to recant in print, saying they "failed to detect the shortcomings of Lady Macbethas pointed out by the Pravda". Shortly after the "Muddle Instead of Music" article, Pravda published another, "Ballet Falsehood," that criticized Shostakovich’s ballet The Limpid Stream. Shostakovich did not expect this second article because the general public and press already accepted this music as "democratic" - that is, tuneful and accessible. However, Pravda criticized The Limpid Stream for incorrectly displaying peasant life on the collective farm.
"An artist's creative response to just criticism"[edit source | editbeta]The composer's response to his denunciation was the Fifth Symphony of 1937, which was musically more conservative than his earlier works. Premiering on 21 November 1937 in Leningrad, it was a phenomenal success: many in the Leningrad audience had lost family or friends to the mass executions. The Fifth drove many to tears and welling emotions. Later Shostakovich wrote in his memoirs: "I'll never believe that a man who understood nothing could feel the Fifth Symphony. Of course they understood, they understood what was happening around them and they understood what the Fifth was about."
The success put Shostakovich in good standing once again. Music critics and the authorities alike, including those who had earlier accused Shostakovich of formalism, claimed that he had learned from his mistakes and had become a true Soviet artist. The composer Dmitry Kabalevsky, who had been among those who disassociated himself from Shostakovich when the Pravda article was published, praised the Fifth Symphony and congratulated Shostakovich for "not having given in to the seductive temptations of his previous ‘erroneous’ ways."