Why write and why read a book like this? If, like me, you listen to a lot of recorded "clasical" and other music and have run across the work of Viktoria Mullova in collecting and listening, then this provides new insight into why we hear what we hear in these recordings. The relationship between an artist's work and their entire life expeience is in every case quite important to complete understanding and Eva Maria Chapman has done a good job of relating what that experience has been like for Mullova.
It is hard for those of us younger than a certain age to realize just what life in the old Soviet Union could be for entire classes of people or anyone possesed of originality, creativity, or distinctiveness. The huge pressure to conform to a Soviet ideal but also to excell within that comformity led to an artistic approach of relentless pursuit of perfection, which is not in itself a bad thing, but ultimately limiting if not transcended. This book explains how this contradiction led to Mullova's ultimate defection late in the Soviet era.
Running all through the book is the story of Mullova's complex family life and relationships with her parents and the men in her life and her quite blended family. This is a story made all the more complex by the geography involved in a world wide musical career. The history and development of these relationships does not have a direct bearing on her music but enables much of what she has done and accomplished musically.
Ms Chapman does a good enough job of describing the musical evolution from the Moscow school of steely perfection (and steel strings on the violin) to the more inclusive and relaxed approach to Baroque and folk/jazz idioms (with gut strings on the violin)that Mullova now embraces. A professional musician might have described this more completely but we certainly get the sense that Viktoria has traveled a long way musically and thought long and hard about what she is doing.
In any case, read the book and then go listen to some of the music!