Russian Shostakovich Studies: History in the Contemporary Stage
The contemporary stage of Russian Shostakovich studies embraces the wave of democratic sentiment, which began with perestrojka in the early 1990’s and led to the abolition of the notorious article 6 that postulated the primacy of the communist party in the USSR. This brought about the end of both the communist posts of ideological control and the censorship of art.
Nevertheless, a crisis in Russian Shostakovich studies was evident by the lack of conceptual works on Shostakovich in the new Russia of the 1990s. Early biographies reflect the Soviet historiographical tradition, with its characteristically great number of intentional mistakes and substituted concepts. This is exemplified by entries in reference books and encyclopedic dictionaries that keep silent on Stalin’s repressions and the years spent in camps, prisons and exile. Because of this Soviet biography as a genre is not fully trusted in the professional milieu. The facts of Shostakovich’s biography ought to be fully revised and proven by documents and primary sources.
In 2004, a sensational finding in the Glinka State Museum (Moscow) unearthed 150 manuscripts written in Shostakovich’s hand. The manuscripts consist of sketches, fair copies (or their fragments) of Shostakovich's known works, and a group of compositions, (mainly sketches) some of which were considered lost, about which only indirect evidence (their mention in letters, memoirs, and press) previously existed, as well as Shostakovich's student instrumentations. The aforementioned research project’s interpretation of these manuscripts allowed us to add to, clarify, and in some cases change interpretations of the major moments of Shostakovich’s creative biography. Further research resulted in the attribution of almost all of the manuscripts, and in the restoration of some musical pieces, among them some that have never been published or performed before. (I will speak about my own find from the private archive; the so-called “Finnish Suite” whose publication in 2000 brought a musical and political sensation.)
Russian Shostakovich studies’ main resources are his letters to friends and confidants (Ivan Sollertinsky, Boleslav Yavorsky, Isaak Glikman). A great collection of the Glinka State Museum’s Shostakovich’s letters appears in a volume of documents and materials published in 2000. (All mentioned books and music publication will be demonstrated in the course of my lecture.)
The composer’s widow M-me Irina Shostakovich put together a Moscow-based Shostakovich Archive that does a lot of work researching, attributing and collecting documents and materials of the composer’s life and work. The Archive is closely linked the activities of the DSCH-publishing house where the multi-volume collected works of Shostakovich is preparing for publication. At the same time the annual “D.D. Shostakovich. Documents. Studies” started as well as the Chronicle of Shostakovich’ life and work based on his diaries and other documental sources.
Contemporary Russian Shostakovich studies’ strong point is working with his texts and documents from his life. Doubtlessly, this hard and scrupulous labor will soon become the basis of conceptual work on Shostakovich in any language.
Professor Kovnatskaya was born in Leningrad/St. Petersburg. She graduated from the musical college attached to the Leningrad conservatoire (1959). She was educated in the Theoretic’ & Composer’ faculty (1965) and she has been also a student in the Organ Class (1965). After she gained her first degree she moved on as a post-graduate student in the History of Western Music department (1969). She defended her PhD dissertation in 1970 and she gained a Doctorate in Arts in 1987
Dr Kovnatskaya has lectured and has given papers in many conferences and lectures series all over the world (Moscow, Stockholm, Manchester, Erevan, Jerusalem, Toronto, Zurich, Helsinki and elsewhere). She has published 2 books on music in Britain (Benjamin Britten, 1974; British Music of the XX century, 1986), 43 articles and publications in the collections of studies on Purcell, Britten, Tippett and other British composers, on Shostakovich, Stravinsky, Balakirev and others and 38 articles and essays in scientific periodical issues. She has been a consultant of the Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, where she contributed with 20 articles on Leningrad – St Petersburg composers. She has worked for the projects: Dmitri Dmitrievich Shostakovich. Between the moment and Eternity. Documents. Articles. Publications. Kompozitor (St. Petersburg 2000), Albert Schweitzer. Johann Sebastian Bach. Klassika – XXI (Moscow, 2002), Arnold Schoenberg Letters Translated in Russian by Victor Schnittke, Institute PRO ARTE – Kompozitor (St. Petersburg, 2001), which has received the Victor Belyaev literary prize. And all three projects have been awarded The Book of the Year Award by the newspaper Music Review in Moscow.
Dr Kovnatskaya has published 6 booklets and programme-books with her essays, mainly on Britten and other British composers. Moreover, she has collected and edited articles and essays by various contributors, including her own work, in a 13 volume series.
She has acted as an organizer and a chair of conferences and symposiums of International status in St Petersburg, namely: ART BRITANNICA I-III, A World of Childhood in Fine Arts 1988 – 1998, Stravinsky in St Petersburg, George Balanchine and the Balanchivasze Family in St Petersburg Conservatoire and others. She has also organized and held 7 International musical festivals. She has also been a member of the Programme Committee of the 17th Congress of the IMS (1997 – 2002), and a member of the Expert Board of the PRO ARTE Institute in St Petersburg (2000 – 2003).
Furthermore, she has been a grant holder of the George Soros Foundation (Institute ‘The Open Society’) for the research project Ideological control of musical avant – guarde of the ‘20s in minutes and archival documents, LACM – Leningrad Association for Contemporary Music (1997 – 1999).
Currently, she is a Professor in St Petersburg Conservatoire (since 1968) and a Leading Fellow of the Russian Institute for History of Arts in St Petersburg. Dr Kovnatskaya over her teaching years has supervised 14 PhD dissertations and 44 diploma theses. She is also a member of the Composers’ Union in St Petersburg and since 2002 a member of the Directorium of the International Musicological Society. Moreover, she is serving as a member of the editorial board of the periodical TEMPO, which is being published by Cambridge University Press and as a co-editor of the annual almanac “From the Shostakovich Archive”, which is published by “DSCH Publishing House”. Furthermore, she is appointed as a co-editor of the “Shostakovich Chronicle” DSCH Publications.
Finally, she has been presented with the “Honoured Artist of Russian Federation” award.