Letters from Shostakovich to Nikolai Martynov

by ALAN MERCER in London, Greater London, United Kingdom

Letters from Shostakovich to Nikolai Martynov

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Keep what you raise – this project will receive all pledges made by 20th July 2024 at 9:25am

Publication of the first English translation of letters from Dmitri Shostakovich to composer Nikolai Martynov born in 1938, Leningrad.

by ALAN MERCER in London, Greater London, United Kingdom

The funds will be used to provide a high-quality English translation of “Nikolai Martynov. Shostakovich’s letters. Pages from his notebook” published in 1996.

Here, Martynov records many conversations with, and letters from, Shostakovich. Some he did not dare write down, given the risks involved, even after Stalin's demise.

Example—concerning the rarely-played Second and Third Symphonies by Shostakovich:

"Blazhkov was going to revive these symphonies. That evening he told D.D. about the performance at the "Warsaw Autumn" of the suite from the opera The Nose

D.D. listened with some surprise to Blazhkov's reported opinion of this suite: "Shostakovich had already discovered in the 1920s what we are discovering now".

I remember that he was not particularly enthusiastic about the idea of resuming the Second and Third Symphonies, believing that there were some rather significant flaws in them. Ironically, he added: "Even the sun has its spots" ... " All the same, he did not shake our conviction that it was necessary to perform these symphonies once more.

A month later the Third Symphony was performed in a concert by Blazhkov. In connection with this event, I recall the following conversation.

The Capella Hall where the rehearsals were taking place was empty. Somewhere in the front rows sits Shostakovich, far behind me. 

After waiting for a break, I approached D.D. and asked: "Do you think things will be better now that Khrushchev has been removed?" (Khrushchev made memorable attacks on the creative intelligentsia in the final months of his rule; it seemed that it would soon be easier to breathe.)

Shostakovich replies with a sarcasm I don't quite understand: "It will be even better, even better... " Out of inertia I continue: "But at least the Thirteenth Symphony will probably be allowed!"

Although the Thirteenth Symphony was soon indeed performed, and later even with the old poems, the general atmosphere in the country was gradually deteriorating, and one could feel the breath of approaching stagnation.

Shostakovich's irony was quite justified: the artist's remarkable sensibility and bitter life experience allowed him to see much further than most of us.

You will not find this statement by D.D. in my notebook. And no wonder: I was afraid to write down some of his phrases in order not to cause him unnecessary trouble - he had had more than enough.”

With the support and approval of Shostakovich's widow, Irina Antonovna Shostakovich, the letters will be published in the DSCH Journal, the only regular publication dedicated to the life and work of composer Dmitri Shostakovich.

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1-year subscription + exclusive archive photograph

One-year subscription to DSCH Journal (choice of print or digital), delivered to your door, plus an exclusive high-quality print of a photograph of Dmitri Shostakovich from the 1930s (courtesy of the Shostakovich Archives in Russia)

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1-year subscription to the DSCH Journal

One-year subscription to the DSCH Journal (choice of print or digital), delivered to your door.

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2-year subscription + exclusive archive photograph

Two-year subscription to DSCH Journal (choice of print or digital), delivered to your door, plus an exclusive high-quality print of a photograph of Dmitri Shostakovich from the 1930s (courtesy of the Shostakovich Archives in Russia)

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2-year subscription + photograph + biography

2-year subscription to DSCH Journal (choice of print or digital), exclusive high-quality print of a photograph of Dmitri Shostakovich from the 1930s (courtesy of the Shostakovich Archives in Russia), a copy of the most recent biography of Shostakovich by Pauline Fairclough. Some reviews: *combines cutting edge scholarship with tremendous insight into Shostakovich's complex personality' - Erik Levi, BBC Music Magazine

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2-year subscription + photo + signed biography

2-year subscription to DSCH Journal (choice of print or digital), exclusive high-quality print of a photograph of Dmitri Shostakovich from the 1930s (courtesy of the Shostakovich Archives in Russia), an exclusive signed copy of the most recent biography of Shostakovich by Pauline Fairclough. Some reviews: *combines cutting edge scholarship with tremendous insight into Shostakovich's complex personality' - Erik Levi, BBC Music Magazine

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