A lost friend of Shostakovich?

The New York Review of Books has published a memoir by Anastasia Edel of her grandfather Anatoly Alexandrov, a longterm party loyalist and mayor of Novorossiysk. According to the article Alexandrov formed a musical friendship with the great composer.

In March 1961, Shostakovich paid a three-day visit to Novorossiysk. My grandfather, by then elected the city’s mayor, was in charge of the composer’s visit. A well-known Izvestiya correspondent and a photographer were dispatched by their Moscow editorial office to cover Shostakovich’s contribution to socialist construction. At the Heroes’ Square, leaning on a cane (Shostakovich had just recovered from a foot fracture), the celebrated composer, now also an Honorable Citizen of Novorossiysk, stood by the granite monument framed by newly planted trees, the sea glittering in the distance, and listened to his music. “This is how I pictured everything,” he told my grandfather. 

Fascinating as this reads, something here does not quite chime with what we know of the composer’s wariness in forming new relationships, partocularly with Communist Party officials.

Read on here.

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  • It seems Shostakovich treated people ‘as he found them’ – rather than sticking labels like ‘Party official’ on them. If he was treated decently, invited to Novorossiysk, and shown around – then he reacted decently in response, and behaved with good grace… as someone with good upbringing in any society would do.

  • It is of great interest, and I see reason to say that it “does not quite chime” with what we know of DS. Ignore subtlety and nuance in people and circumstances, and any friendship may seem not to chime. Nevertheless, music formed the basis of DS’s friendship of some dozen years with party member and Marshall of the SU Tukhachevsky, lasting until the latter’s death in Stalin’s military purges. In 1961 the situation was different indeed, for Kruschev was courting artists, among others, and hoped to get DS to head the composer’s union. But, at bottom, the friendships with both Tukhachevsky and Alexandrov were grounded in music, and that may to many seem the art that is the most likely to lead to otherwise strange bedfellows. Ms Edel, currently teaching at Berkeley, is the author Putin’s Playground, a book much to be recommended to those seeking to understand the present situation in Russia.

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