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5.0 out of 5 stars Taking It Personally, 19 Mar 2011
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This review is from: On Russian Music (Paperback)
For Simon Cobcroft, Cello Sub-Principal, Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra

Richard Taruskin ( I borrowed the title of his Introduction for this review) is at this stage easily the best universal musicologist, as he has already proven with his Oxford History of Western Music (5 Vol set, 2009); Simon Cobcroft is my best discussion partner on 20th century Russian/Soviet music. Hence a subject which delights me, supported by a book which is of high musical scholarship, broad historical knowledge, and also politically astute and very humorous, to produce any number of meaningful discussions on a subject that is far from history.

Though the selection of articles is wider in scope, the 20th century is particularly relevant: Three Russia-born composers have been among the most productive and popular internationally: Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971), Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) and Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-75), Stravinsky lived outside the Soviet Union (which lasted from 1917 to 1991) all his life, Prokofiev lived in the Soviet Union again since 1935, and Shostakovich, finally, except for a brief visit, never left the Soviet Union.

Russia has never been an easily accessible country, and the Soviet Period was likely the worst. During the Cold War (1947-91), apart from domestic suppression in the Soviet Union, distribution and public concerts of Soviet music in the West were also much restricted by Western government and voluntary restraints. A major
related issue has been to what extent Prokofiev and Shostakovich have been collaborators or enemies of Stalin. Like already in his final volumes of his Oxford opus - early and late 20th century, respectively - Taruskin gives a masterful assessment of Cold War issues and consequences.

The Antiliterary Man: Diaghilev and Music, to pick one article at near-random, gives a considerably wider spectre of the ballets russes period, notably the various influences from aristocratic to folkloristic. It is like all the book, like all Taruskin, actually, easy reading of rather complicated matter. Brilliant.

obuk 1 - 19 March 2011
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On Russian Music
On Russian Music by Richard Taruskin (Paperback - 8 Oct 2010)
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