Music Under Stalin

This course will focus on the relationship between composers and the Soviet state during the Stalin years (1929-1953). 

The period of relative artistic freedom in the 1920s, which resulted in the flowering of extreme modernist trends as well as the emergence of rough-hewn ‘proletarian music’, ended with the gradual centralization of control over culture that unfolded between 1929 and 1936. The infamous ‘Lady Macbeth affair’ of 1936 not only threatened Shostakovich’s career, but issued a strong warning to artists in every field that the new doctrines of Socialist Realism were to be taken seriously. By trial and error, Soviet composers eventually worked out what Socialist Realism meant for their art: a transparent and conservative style of music, often relying on folk-derived themes. 

There was a struggle over the boundaries by composers with stronger individual vision, like Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Myaskovsky, Khachaturian and Popov, who sometimes won official praise for the high quality of their work, but at other times faced setbacks and censure. The course will be illustrated by the presentation of archival materials, video and audio illustrations, and live music.

Future Lectures In This Series
WATCHED
Part of a series

Modernism Rampant: Shostakovich and Mosolov

Professor Marina Frolova-Walker FBA
Thursday, 23 September 2021 - 6:00PM
WATCHED
Part of a series

How can music be “Socialist Realist”?

Professor Marina Frolova-Walker FBA
Thursday, 18 November 2021 - 6:00PM
WATCHED
Part of a series

Shostakovich on Trial: from Lady Macbeth to the Fifth Symphony

Professor Marina Frolova-Walker FBA
Thursday, 13 January 2022 - 6:00PM
WATCHED
Part of a series

Prokofiev the Soviet Artist

Professor Marina Frolova-Walker FBA
Thursday, 10 February 2022 - 6:00PM
WATCHED
Part of a series

Soviet Music in World War II

Professor Marina Frolova-Walker FBA
Thursday, 24 March 2022 - 6:00PM
WATCHED
Part of a series

The Year 1948 in Soviet Music

Professor Marina Frolova-Walker FBA
Thursday, 19 May 2022 - 6:00PM