Enter the wierdly wonderful world of Galina Ustvolskaya

Enter the wierdly wonderful world of Galina Ustvolskaya

Alastair Macaulay

norman lebrecht

May 02, 2021

Christopher Russell and I share a longterm fascination with the reclusive Galina Ustvolskaya, a Leningrad composer who rejected everything in the Soviet system, including her former teacher and would-be husband, Dmitri Shostakovich.

Chris has just recorded her fifth symphony.

You see it here first.


  • Couperin says:


  • John Borstlap says:

    The loaden Russian pathos is unbearable, it sounds like conceived by thoroughly frustrated monks who live on locusts and grass, in badly-lit caves deep in the Ural mountains.

    That is what communism does to people.

  • Burt says:

    I like it.

  • Peter Owen says:

    If ever there was a Marmite composer it must be Ustvolskaya.

  • RW2013 says:

    A performance of her complete piano sonatas by Markus Hinterhäuser a few years ago was

  • Marfisa says:

    I was looking forward to this, after your December 4th post about it. It was a brave attempt, under Covid restrictions. But it really does sound much better with the prayer intoned in Russian, and in a live performing space, like this one by Cantata Profana: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QxjwhTCq2eY

  • Karl says:

    Leon Botstein’s Orchestra Now played Galina Ustvolskaya’s Symphonic Poem # 1 before covid ended the world. It was pretty cool. The program booklet did mention how much she disliked Shostakovitch.

    • John Borstlap says:

      All her music is an expression of disliking Shostakovich. She must have had quite a crush on him.

      • Edgar Self says:

        Ustvolskaya actually declined Shostakovich’s proposal of marriage after the death of his first wife Nina.

  • Willem Philips says:

    Let’s try to get the spelling of weirdly remedied, Norman. I’m surprised at you. You’d be first to criticize an American for being illiterate in this regard.