B0865. Elizabeth Wilson. Shostakovich, A Life Remembered. Princeton University Press, 1994. 550pp. Photos, Appendix, Biographical Notes, Annotated List of Sources, Index. (Pictorial thick paper covers) - 0-691- 04465-1 9 780691 04465 1
"This book offers a unique perspective on one of our century's most complex, enigmatic, and controversial geniuses, set in the musical and political context of his time. The author is well equipped for the task: she is a cellist who studied with Mstislav Rostropovich in Moscow from 1964 to 1971, when her father was British ambassador there. Her book is a compendium of official documents, private letters, diaries, and interviews with Shostakovich's family, friends, and enemies (in Russia and elsewhere), as well as articles written especially for the book. The result is a fascinating, first-hand portrait of Shostakovich the man as husband, widower, father, and friend, and Shostakovich the composer, who - by turns officially reviled and extolled - became a symbol for the suffering of his people. Indomitably creative despite constant fear, repression, bereavement, and debilitating illnesses, his ultimate tragedy was that the political thaw came too late for his failing health. Naturally, many of Wilson's respondents are musicians who knew that Shostakovich encoded his music with hidden subtexts to express his secret thoughts. On the other hand, his political statements, written and spoken under duress, were often ambiguous and contradictory, and she quotes both conciliatory and hostile reactions to them. She also cites many testimonials of his spontaneous generosity to friends and colleagues in need. Among the most delightful episodes are visits by the composer Benjamin Britten and the tenor Peter Pears. The latter gives a loving description in his diary of a splendid Christmas and New Year's celebration with the Rostropovich and Shostakovich families, never even mentioning differences of language, culture, or politics."
- Edith Eisler