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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Shostakovich Festival Slated To Honor Composer's Birth

Dmitry Shostakovich, the Russian composer whose works were once derided by the Soviet authorities as "muddle instead of music," will be honored with a nine-month festival opening in October to mark the 90th anniversary of his birth, festival organizers announced Wednesday.


The festival "Shostakovich and World Musical Culture," will feature performances -- including one premiere -- of works by Shostakovich and his contemporaries by leading Russian and foreign orchestras, conductors and performers, as well as an exhibition dedicated to Shostakovich's life and the issue of commemorative postage stamps and medals, festival organizers said.


Performances will take place in Moscow, Nizhny Novgorod and Ufa, and in Paris, they said.


Irina Shostakovich, the composer's widow and a member of the festival organizing committee, expressed her hope that the number of participating cities and countries would increase, adding: "I'm very glad that the festival is going to continue for the whole season."


Born in 1906, Shostakovich had, by the 1930s, become the Soviet Union's most promising young composer. But in 1936 Shostakovich fell foul of the system.


His problems started with the premiere in that year of his opera, "Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk District," which was attended by Stalin himself.


The following day a critical article appeared in Pravda headlined "Muddle Instead of Music."


From that point on, Shostakovich's position was insecure. Even after his partial rehabilitation following the positive reception of his Fifth Symphony in 1937, Shostakovich had to continue to court the regime.


In 1948, Shostakovich, together with other leading Soviet composers, was attacked again, this time by Andrei Zhdanov, the party boss controlling Soviet culture and ideology who was then leading a campaign for a simpler and more accessible musical language.


After Stalin's death in 1953, pressure on Shostakovich was relaxed but was never completely withdrawn until the composer's death in 1975 at the age of 69.


According to Manasher Yakubov, a specialist in Shostakovich's works and a member of the festival organizing committee, the festival, which opens Oct. 2 with a performance of his "15th Symphony" and runs until June 1997, will mostly feature Shostakovich's symphonic and stage works.


The composer's chamber music will be represented with a series of concerts at the Pushkin Museum called "December Evenings" organized by Russian pianist Svyatoslav Richter, as well as concerts by the Moscow City Philharmonia.


The Pushkin Museum will also hold an exhibition dedicated to Shostakovich's life, Yakubov said.


The original version of Shostakovich's ballet "The Golden Age," which will be performed by Ufa's Opera and Ballet Theater, will be premiered at the festival, and works once prohibited and condemned by the Soviet authorities, like "Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk District" and the two ballets; "Bolt" and "Bright Rivulet" will be performed and released on CD.


Yakubov said the program of the festival would also include works by Shostakovich's contemporaries and by musicians who influenced the composer's work in any way, adding that this was quite appropriate: Shostakovich himself was once quoted as saying, "I like all music, from Bach to Offenbach."