Wednesday, June 1, 2016
June 2016 - Featured Playlist: Behind the Iron Curtain
As part of its Cold War strategy, the Soviet Union established artistic restrictions that it felt would create a unique cultural identity and unify its people. Throughout Communism’s reign over USSR and Eastern Europe—under the Zhdanov Doctrine (1946-1953) especially—the ability of composers to pursue their art was heavily censored, and they were forced to choose between conforming to the musical tenets foisted upon them or staying true to their art at the risk of being blacklisted, imprisoned, or worse.
For our parents’ and grandparents’ generations, the specter of Soviet Communism was a serious concern not unlike the fear of terrorism today. Like these composers, if we have to choose between freedom and security, what will we decide? It’s important to examine this time in history, both for its influence over art and for the lessons it can offer our present world. Lest we forget, let’s have a look at what life was like Behind the Iron Curtain.
To hear the playlist, access NML as usual, go to the Playlists section, and select the Playlist of the Month folder under the Themed Playlists tab. If you are on your institution's premises, you may also be able to access it if you CLICK HERE.
2. Sergey Prokofiev – The Year 1941: I. In the Struggle – Like Shostakovich, Prokofiev was denounced under the Zhdanov Doctrine, and his symphonic suite The Year 1941 was among his works that were blacklisted. Prokofiev lived the remainder of his life under considerable artistic restrictions, and in a sad twist, he died on the same day as Stalin, missing out on the cultural thaw to come.
6. Grażyna Bacewicz – Overture – Bacewicz chose to play along with the Soviet tenets of “social realism”, which meant that most of her earlier compositions were neo-classical and folk-inspired. There weren’t many Polish composers under Communism who could create large-scale works that passed censorship, but Bacewicz was one of them.
9. Arvo Pärt – Tabula Rasa – As part of a later generation of composers, Estonian composer Arvo Pärt enjoyed slightly less-strict limitations on composition, even ultimately emigrating to Vienna and Berlin (though not without a prolonged battle with Soviet officials). Still, he was accused of “susceptibility to foreign influences” by Zhdanov flunky Tikhon Khrennikov in 1962, though he went on to win a prestigious composition prize only nine months later.
Each month, Naxos Music Library presents a themed playlist for our subscribers to enjoy. We know that a database of over 1.85 million tracks can be a bit daunting, so we'd like to highlight some of the amazing music that is available to you. Let it kickstart discovery!