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Events to celebrate Shostakovich

By : Rachel Coker

The campus community will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Dmitri Shostakovich with a multidisciplinary slate of activities beginning March 23.

The Soviet composer’s contributions to music and other disciplines will be recognized with concerts, lectures, poetry readings and an art exhibit. Russian Voices: Protest and Homage will examine Shostakovich’s legacy.

“The anniversary has engendered a lot of excitement and interest,” said Roberta Crawford, an adjunct lecturer in music and one of the organizers of the campus events. “I think it’s a timely topic, to value our artistic freedom and to protect it.”

Crawford noted that people all over the world are marking this anniversary and reconsidering the way that Shostakovich balanced the repression of the Soviet regime with his need for artistic expression. She said that despite the pressure to conform, Shostakovich found ways to speak to the Russian people’s everyday lives.

Crawford, a violist, will perform with pianist Michael Salmirs, violinist Patricia Sunwoo and cellist Stephen Stalker in a March 24 concert. The show will feature Shostakovich’s last composition, the Viola Sonata, Op. 147, and Giya Kancheli’s Piano Quartet in L’istesso Tempo.

The Viola Sonata is especially meaningful to Crawford. Her desire to perform the sonata in connection with the anniversary was the seed that blossomed into this larger cultural project.

“For me, a great composer’s works are like time capsules,” Crawford said. “They are a distillation of life’s experiences. And, if we’re in the right state of mind, it’s possible for us as listeners and performers to participate in this world.”

Crawford said she began thinking of Russian Voices as the title for the project and then thought it would be appropriate to include Russian poets.

That led to the involvement of Nancy Tittler and Donald Loewen of the Department of German, Russian and East Asian Languages.

“We’ve chosen three poets whose work inspired Shostakovich directly and whose experience in part he shared,” Tittler said.

She said Soviet repression and events such as the Siege of Leningrad connect Aleksandr Blok, Anna Akhmatova and Yevgeny Yevtushenko to Shostakovich.

“It’s especially important for me that my students and the rest of the community know what it was like to live in the Soviet Union in that era under those trials,” Tittler said.

Lecturer Marina Zalesski will read Akhmatova’s poem Requiem, Yevtushenko’s poem Babii Yar and a poem by Blok during the concert. Translations by Professor Emeritus Martin Bidney will appear in the program.

Tittler will participate in a pre-concert lecture with Lynn Gamwell, director of the Art Museum, that will address Futurism and the advent of Socialist Realism. The museum will also have an exhibit of Soviet posters as well as pages of Shostakovich’s music paired with images of him from the same period.

Everyone collaborating on the Russian Voices project seems pleased by the way one element of the program will complement the others.

“This is really business as it should be,” Tittler said. “This is what we strive to do. I’m delighted.”

Crawford agreed. “This really excites me because it is a whole cultural experience,” she said. “Artists don’t operate in a vacuum.”
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Last Updated: 10/14/08