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am 15. Juni 2000
Taruskin's name is associated by the experienced reader of Russian music books with texts of in-depth treatment (I bet nobody could research more exhaustively on Stravinsky), rigorous demands of his texts for clarity and entertaining style for the non-scholar reader. Defining Russian Music offers through a series of essays a description very accurate of what Russian music is from the beginning of the formation of a Russian musical identity to the Soviet period and, what I think is more important, why it shows these characteristics. A passage I found very interesting explains the origin of a Pushkin's poem and compares settings of it by three composers from different periods. A non rough-reading text, fully illustrated with musical examples, this book is a must-have for people who appreciate Russian composers and their work as all Taruskin's books up to now.
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am 15. Juni 2000
Taruskin's name is associated by the experienced reader of Russian music books with texts of in-depth treatment, rigorous demands of his texts for clarity and entertaining style for the non-scholar reader. Defining Russian Music offers through a series of essays a description very accurate of what Russian music is from the beginning of the formation of a Russian musical identity to the Soviet period and, what I think is more important, why it shows these characteristics. A passage I found very interesting explains the origin of a Pushkin's poem and compares settings of it by three composers from different periods. A non rough-reading text, fully illustrated with musical examples, this book is a must-have for people who appreciate Russian composers and their work as all Taruskin's books up to now.
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Musical scholarship today is like a dialogue within itself as well as informing the larger populace, sometimes you don't know which comes first. But here Taruskin must draw battle lines in the sand so to stake a claim,like the one against his benign enemy Peter van den Toorn. Taruskin is this side of the scholarship that shuns the guild system of note to note musical analysis the kind the Schenkerian ideologies have spawned in academia today. This is why his insights are so fascinating. It is incredible to think of all the Russians you hear at primary concert venues throughout the United States it seems we have had virtually nothing to guide our listening habits The music of Shostakovich is a great example,what we have had to guide our listening is his music was a veiled critique of the tyrannical Stalinist system that brutalized and pulverized culture,no one disagrees here. But one important question we never seem to have answered including Taruskin here, was Shostakovich a socialist,what did he actually think of the economic systems of the West?. Taruskin in two brilliant essays one on Shostakovich's opera "Lady Macbeth" and the other on the "Fifth Symphony" we have insights we have heard before, again Shostakovich the culture hero victim.. We also learn of Stravinsky's reactionary cast. I really didn't know he was an anti-Semite. Well you might say how does this effect his composition?. Well Taruskin makes a good argument for Stravinsky's treatments of subject matter, as in the obvious anti-social dimensions in the "Rite of Spring" where the virgin is sacrificed as an inevitability, no resortment to struggle, a concept anathema to Stravinsky. What this kind of social scholarship unleashes is at the very heart of the music's value It is easy to see now Stravinsky's brutalization of sound,not only in the obvious choice of the "Rite of Spring" but Stravinsky's taming his voices subjecting them to a passivity,to a one-dimensional function, as part of a texture,And where has Stravinsky found his voice when there is one?, in borrowings,particulary Russian folk. These four last hermeneutical essays are for me the high point of this volume. Also Scriabin and Tchaikovsky complete it. I never understood any scholarship for Tchaikovsky, what's there to discuss,his relations with the Tsar's aristocracy? Except that Taruskin works at another level of contemplation,in saying things as this music has an immediacy that is borne through lived experience, it is not premeditated music, the kind we find in the West with an obsession for global order and pitch configurations. You will always find something to think about(even in Tchaikovsky)t with this kind of social and political scholarship which Taruskin espouses.
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