On Monday we discussed the initial success of Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth that quickly turned into a controversy. Following Stalin’s attendance of a performance in 1936, the work was denounced in an article published in Pravda, the Communist Party newspaper, calling it “chaos instead of music.” The government accused the opera saying it contained modernist elements and an obscene portrayal of sexual and violent circumstances. Here is an excerpt from the article:
“From the first minute, the listener is shocked by deliberate dissonance, by a confused stream of sounds. Snatches of melody, the beginnings of a musical phrase, are drowned, emerge again, and disappear in a grinding and squealing roar. To follow this ‘music’ is most difficult; to remember it, impossible.”
Following the publication of this article, Shostakovich feared for his life as the government often times banished or executed people they felt produced work not in line with socialist realism.
How did Shostakovich respond to this criticism? By writing more music, of course! Join me tomorrow as I discuss the follow-up to this denunciation.