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on 19 December 1997
The fact that Volkov never answered to Laurel Fay, who suggested (in "Shostakovich vs. Volkov: whose Testimony", "The Russian Review", October 1980:484-493) that Volkov had "invented" this book seems to prove "Testimony" is not really the memories of Shostakovich, but something else. May be Shostakovich thought this way, but there is no evidence proving these are actually his thoughts. For the interested person "Shostakovich Studies," ed. by David Fanning (1995), and "Shostakovich: A life remembered" by E. Wilson (1994) are very good readings. "The New Shostakovich," by Ian MacDonald (1990), is largely speculative. "Shostakovich, the man and his music," ed. by C. Norris, though is already outdated (1982) includes very interesting contributions, some of them very biased. The biography of Shostakovich written by the Polish composser K. Meyer probably is vey interesting, but I did not heard it is available in English (it was published in German and perhaps French originally, I think). José A. Tapia
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on 4 December 2009
There has been a prolonged debate in the United States over the authenticity or otherwise of this text, claiming to be put together from interviews Shostakovich gave to Volkov, and with the first page of each chapter in the original typescript having been signed by Shostakovich as evidence that he had read and approved the text. It has transpired that every page Shostakovich signed was taken verbatim from one of his published writings, which means that he did not in fact authenticate any of the new material. Much of this new material consists of anecdotes about musical life in Soviet Russia. These anecdotes are wonderfully memorable and very well told: they have clearly gone the rounds and grown in the telling. The account of Glazunov's drunkenness contrasts with a strong protest Shostakovich once made against the publication of such scurrilities. The account of Stravinsky on a visit to the Union of Composers during his visit to Krushchev's Russia offering his hosts his stick rather than his hand to shake (repeated in this volume) is pure fiction (as we know from Robert Craft's account of the same event), and would have been known to be fiction by Shostakovich, who was himself present. In all, this volume is bogus as a memoir by Shostakovich, and not to be used as an historical source, but it remains a marvellous record of the stories circulated among the disillusioned Russian intelligentsia in the last decades of Soviet power.
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on 21 November 2015
Book arrived promptly and in very good condition. This is a fascinating account of Shostakovich's personal and creative life throughout the nightmarish repression under Stalin and as related to the author Volkov over many meetings. The resilient character and strongly held opinions of Shostakovich really stand out in this account.
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on 23 March 1998
From 1992 to 1998, Dmitry Feofanov and I thoroughly researched the authenticity and accuracy of Testimony, including conducting interviews with Solomon Volkov, Maxim and Galina Shostakovich, and many others. In a forthcoming book, Shostakovich Reconsidered (Toccata Press, 1998), we reveal how opponents of the Shostakovich memoirs have failed to report all of the facts, have taken things out of proper context, and, above all, have remained curiously silent on the wealth of information that corroborates Testimony. (Allan B. Ho)
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 31 January 2011
As bleak and mournful as any of his music, Shostakovich states at the start that he is not interested in apologies, or straightening the record on any of his own accounts. He has been witness to many extraordinary people and events, some of them terrible, and it is these he wants to ensure are remembered. All the same, in telling us of these matters he inevitably shows us much of himself, and those who have attentively listened will find him to be the same man that his music leads us to expect him to be. The memoirs are more or less free ramblings, very loosely organised by theme and chronology. They are largely epigrammatic, a string of black pearls of bitter and terrible wisdom, acquired through anguish and its forbearance. That's how I see them anyway.

I often read and have been told that music should speak for itself, and that to allow one's responses to be affected by matters of biography is to somehow miss the point. I have always dissented from this view. When I experience music it is as a window into the soul of the composer as another human being, intent on creating the richest possible channel of communication between one mind and another. Taken as such, it is inevitable that I, as a listener, will construct an image of that composer as a person I feel I am coming to know. A friend in fact. This after all, is how all human relationships operate at the end of the day. We construct an internal model of a person, which is continuously tested and refined with each new action or utterance with which they present us. People being the apparently endlessly interesting things they are, one's models of others always stand to be refuted, but until given good reason for revision, we have no choice but to go with what understanding we have.

With all my favourite composers, I have come to a belief that somehow I know them, as persons, through my liking of what I hear of their music. If I then investigate their biographies to some extent, I have always found them to be more or less the people that their music suggested to me they were. Interestingly, I find this less the case with composers with whom my responses are less immediate. Thus it is for me with these controversial memoirs. Whatever their authenticity, the Shostakovich I find in them is the very man his music led me to believe I would find. Reading them has allowed me to go back to the music with deepened insight and an enhanced sense of acquaintance, but with none of my musically conditioned conceptions of Shostakovich's character queried or displaced. They perhaps helped to make a little clearer how history can thrust greatness on some who are ill equipped to bear it, but when they are artists of the first order they can communicate what greatness is to us ordinary ones.

Ultimately, I can never know the authenticity of these memoirs. If Volkov were using Shostakovich's greatness as a highly placed vehicle from which to attack the regime, then that seems sadly contrived. Or perhaps it was a misguided attempt to rehabilitate Shostakovich with those inside the Russian intelligentsia, who were murmuring that Shostakovich's reluctance to make public political pronouncements indicated cowardice or compromise? Either way, this would be a sad, and ultimately short-sighted subterfuge on behalf of an established academic musicologist, who should have known better, and would have if the values espoused in the memoirs meant anything to him. But as Shostakovich himself would have affirmed, far, far more terrible things have happened. All I can say is that, whatever their origin, the memoirs have deepened my personal conception of Shostakovich's character, in turn deepening my experience of the music, and further enriching my relationship with him as a friend whom I know and love.

Mention of Elizabeth Wilson's superb biography Shostakovich: A Life Remembered is made by other reviewers, but I would also point Shostakovich lovers to the powerful and highly researched fictional account of his wartime years, in William T. Vollmann's magnificent Europe Central.
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on 22 August 2015
Very interesting
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on 16 May 1999
Although numerous assaults have taken place against testimony, as if Dmitri Shostakovich had offered his heart on a platter in his film scores but not in the 4th quartet, _Testimony_ has managed to come out the victor amidst the barrage. In addition to the fact that Shostakovich's (or "Shostakovich's", if you skeptics prefer) words coincide so well with the music, I have read various collections of evidence pro Testimony- I think that dozens and dozens of quotations from colleagues of Shostakovich (including his daughter and son) attesting to the truthfulness of Testimony are better evidence than the pedantic date-mincing of cynics who had never met the man.
With all of this further defense of the book aside, I must say that this is a fine book, and it is finer still if you will accept the words within as fact. Read all of the mud-slinging regarding Testimony first if you wish, but with all of it aside this book is a fine work of fact, and would even be a fine work of fiction.
Although pedants may be quite blind to the fact, this book is rather moving, at times humourous, at times starkly observant... One who does not adore Shostakovich's music would do well to read the book, for one gains a great psychological perspective into what are merely very good works when viewed as 'absolute music'.
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on 8 April 2012
This book presents a compelling picture of Shostakovich but it is almost certainly a fake and even if it were true it would say more about the way he chose to remember (and justify) himself than about what was actually going on with him. So this book is fiction but then so was Amadeus. The difference was that in Amadeus Schaffer created a real work of art that told a truth about life even if it misrepresented Mozart's story. Volkov has merely written a fake. So why read it?

Shostakovich is currently very much in fashion and the reservations we had about his output - about it being mixed and filled with works designed to please an oppressive regime, with even many of his better works tending towards being bombastic - are now a thing of the past for most of us. His place as the last great symphonist and a master of the string quartet is deserved and seems secure. But we seem to have a parallel need to see him as a political hero, a dissident rather than a mere survivor. The funny thing is that we probably wouldn't revere his music half as much if he hadn't pandered to the Stalinist critics' insistence on it being accessible!
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on 27 January 1998
although the book is fascinating to read, i find it very amusing that throughout the introduction and preface, the editor seems desperate to convince his reader of his reliability. Sollertinsky did not have to prove his acquaintance with Shostakovich - it is common knowledge, but the only comment made of an acquaintance between the composer and Volkov is that of Irina Shostakovich, who stated that the pair only met briefly once or twice. I am currently writing an essay on this subject for my degree, any comments or suggestions would be much appreciated.
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on 25 March 2014
Does Solomon Volkov actually exist? Because if he does only something like the mediaeval rack seems the only treatment for his utterly meretricious and vulgar attempt to rise to fame on Shostakovich's coat-tail. Thankfully, Laurel Fay's rigorously scrupulous biography has - or ought by now to have - consigned this monstrosity to be sent for pulping.
Dipak Nandy
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