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1. Childhood in Odessa I was born in Odessa, a beautiful and gay city on the Black Sea, in the south of the Russian empire. I grew up a hellion. I would run outside, shout, fight with other kids, then save myself by running home. It wasn't very brave or risky on my part, but Mother worried about me anyway. A neighbor in our building, Mrs. Roisman, gave advice: "You have to keep Nathan busy! Let him take music lessons!"
In the first book to fully examine the intricate and often deadly interconnection between Russian rulers and Russian artists, cultural historian Solomon Volkov (who experienced firsthand many of the events he describes) brings to life the human stories behind some of the greatest masterpieces of our time. Here is Tolstoy, who used his godlike place among the Russian people to rail against the autocracy, even as he eschewed violence; Gorky, the first native writer to openly welcome the revolution and who would go on to become Stalin's closest cultural advisor; Solzhenitsyn, who famously brought the horrors of the Soviet regime to light. Here. too, are Nabokov, Pasternak, Mayakovsky, Akhmatova. In each case, Volkov analyzes the alternate determination and despair, hope and terror borne by writers in a country where, in Solzhenitsyn's maxim, "a great writer is like a second government. "This is also the story of the nation's leading lights in painting, music, dance, theater, and cinema- Kandinsky and Malevich, Rachmaninoff and Stravinsky, Diaghilev and Nijinsky, Stanislavsky and Meyerhold, and Eisenstein and Tarkovsky- and the ways in which their triumphs influenced, and were influenced by, the leadership of the time. With an insider's insight, Volkov describes what it was like to work under constant threat of arrest, exile, or execution. He reminds us of the many artists who were compelled to live as émigrés, and explores not only their complicated relationships with their adopted countries but Russia's love-hate relationship with Western culture as a whole- a relationship that has grown increasingly charged in the wake of the Soviet Union's collapse. Epic in scope and intimate in detail, The Magical Chorus is the definitive account of a remarkable era in Russia's complex cultural life.
"Translation is from an unpublished manuscript"--T. p. verso.
Shostakovich and Stalin: The Extraordinary Relationship Between the Great Composer and the Brutal Dictatorby Solomon Volkov
'Music illuminates a person and provides him with his last hope; even Stalin, a butcher, knew that ...' So said the Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich, who spent his life battling for the right to create his works under the Soviet Union's totalitarian regime. This proved dangerous under the autocratic Stalin, who perceived himself to be an erudite critic of modern culture. So when he stormed out of the performance of Shostakovich's opera 'Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk' in 1936, the composer feared he would be arrested and killed. Instead, the 'supreme leader' played a game of cat and mouse. He would attack Shostakovich in Pravda and ban his music from the airwaves. Then he would honour him with prestigious awards. Stalin's goal was to remain unpredictable, and thus afford Shostakovich no sense of personal security, although he continued to compose stirring symphonies that drew him millions of fans. This is a fascinating and important story told by one of the greatest authorities on Russian culture in the Soviet years.
A compelling portrait of a city and its transcendent artistic and spiritual legacy-written by a cultural historian who has known some of the greatest figures of modern St. Petersburg, including Balanchine, Shostakovich, Akhmatova, and Brodsky