Shostakovich Reconsidered

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ISBN: 978-0-907689-57-7
Release Date: 1998-08-08
Composer: Dmitry Shostakovich
Author: Allan B. Ho, Dmitry Feofanov
Series: Music and Society

With an overture by Vladimir Ashkenazy
Extent: 791 pages
Composition: Demy octavo ~ Illustrated ~ Appendices ~ Bibliography ~ Index
Illustrations: 16 b/w

Dmitry Shostakovich’s memoirs, Testimony, “related to and edited by Solomon Volkov”, have been the subject of fierce debate since their publication in 1979. Was Testimony a forgery, made up by an impudent impostor, or was it the deathbed confession of a bent, but unbroken, man? The authenticity of Testimony first came under attack from the Soviet government and then from commentators whom Vladimir Ashkenazy in his Overture calls Soviet stooges in the West; even now, years after the fall of the communist regime, a coterie of well-placed Western musicologists have regularly raised objections to Testimony, hoping with each attack to undermine the picture of Shostakovich presented in his memoirs that of a man of enormous moral stature, bitterly disillusioned with the Soviet system.

In Shostakovich Reconsidered Allan Ho and Dmitry Feofanov systematically address all of the accusations levelled at Testimony and Solomon Volkov, Shostakovich’s amanuensis, amassing an enormous amount of material about Shostakovich and his position in Soviet society and burying forever the picture of Shostakovich as a willing participant in the communist charade.

Their analysis is complemented by a generous number of other essays, many of them by Shostakovich’s close friends and acquaintances, and an interview with Solomon Volkov in which he explains how he worked with Shostakovich to help him write Testimony. Other contributors include the composer’s son, Maxim, the cellist and conductor Mstislav Rostropovich and the poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko, whose verses of protest Shostakovich set in the Thirteenth Symphony. Shostakovich Reconsidered concludes with a bravura examination by Ian MacDonald of Shostakovich’s political attitudes considered against the contemporary events that shaped them.

Shostakovich Reconsidered will be a revelation to the half-million readers who have bought Testimony in its twenty-odd translations. This book does more than set the record straight: it establishes beyond any doubt the enormous courage of one of the moral giants of the age.

22 reviews for Shostakovich Reconsidered

  1. :

    “This is a meticulously detailed, impressively arranged and sublimely readable work of historical investigation. Even the footnotes sparkle. […] This is one of the most wonderful books I have ever read.” Amazon Customer Review

  2. :

    “a wealth of information for any serious (and not-so-serious) Shostakovich scholar…” Amazon Customer Review

  3. :

    “A thoroughly researched and well written investigation of the composer-as-dissident.” Amazon Customer Review

  4. :

    “…the book comprehensively gathers all the witnesses and testimonies so that one can understand the entire issue surrounding the controversy […] On the subject of Testimony, it could very well be the last word on the subject.” Amazon Customer Review

  5. :

    ‘The book, organised like a court case where the memoirs stand on trial, is extremely easy to read, set in a language that is readily understood by those who are invited to act as jury. The footnotes and cross references are thorough to the point of providing substantial commentary on the side, allowing one to follow the logic of the cross examination and defence. There is extensive rebuttal of the studies of the anti-revisionists that leaves the misleading claims of these scholars bare to ridicule, warranted as they are by such preposterous papers such as Laurel Fay’s on Shostakovich’s song-cycle From Jewish Folk Poetry. In short it is ruthless, but deservedly so in light of such published scholastic deceptions that revolve around selective representation and deliberate misinterpretation of material, dependency on outdated material and on splitting hairs with Volkov and MacDonald.

    Shostakovich Reconsidered thus acts like a ray of sunshine through the stormy clouds of these past decades of controversy over who the real Shostakovich was. More than just closing the case on Testimony, as one must after going through the book, it provides the much needed all-round perspective of a composer who was not only a commentator and a critic of his times, but also a sharp and colourful satirist whose outlook on life and music far exceeded what we thought we knew of him.’

    —C. H. Loh, The Sun, Kuala Lumpur

  6. :

    ‘…the variety of opinions and styles is one of the things that make this thick volume so readable. In their 300-page defence of Testimony, Ho and Feofanov adopt something close to a courtroom style, which holds the attention to the end, and makes the case for the memoirs seem virtually unassailable. […] Read Shostakovich Reconsidered by all means; marvel at its breadth of reference, the force of the writing, and ultimately at the power of this music to stir up such intensity of feeling, such aggression.’

    —Stephen Johnson, The Times Literary Supplement

  7. :

    ‘one of those indispensable books on your shelf’

    —Nigel Papworth, DSCH Journal

  8. :

    ‘For 20 years the composer’s memoirs, Testimony, have been attacked as fraudulent, and the composer maligned as a man who gave in to Soviet pressure and compromised his art. The present authors wish to defend Shostakovich’s reputation, conducting, in an entertaining trial format, a passionate defence of the book. There are also numerous other musicological and cultural essays are a splendid celebration of this sublime musician.’

    —Stephen Poole, The Guardian

  9. :

    ‘Bulky but absorbing, this devastating counter-attack exposes levels of academic self-delusion that might be condonable under North Korean water torture but seem a tad contorted in the cathedra of Ivy League colleges and the columns of the New Grove Dictionary

    —Norman Lebrecht, The Daily Telegraph

  10. :

    ‘[Ho and Feofanov’s defence of Testimony is] couched deliberately in courtroom terms, cross-examining and painstakingly discrediting objections one by one. This is so thoroughly done it surely puts the onus on Testimony‘s detractors to return to the stand [… I] will be putting references to Volkov’s dishonesty on ice until that happens. […] By all means read their book and enjoy the frisson of its TV-courtroom-drama-style presentation.,

    —David Fanning, BBC Music Magazine

  11. :

    ‘This book settles the issue once and for all. I am sure that no one in his sane mind, having read the evidence presented by the authors, will ever ask the question of whether Testimony is authentic Shostakovich or not. The answer is that it most definitely is.’

    —Vladimir Ashkenazy

  12. :

    ‘I have read ‘Reply to an Unjust Criticism’ and find it admirable, convincing and totally solid in its approach and reasoning. It is riveting reading and reveals human nature in the whole span of the worst and the best and how they fit into each other and how in a certain way the one provokes the other and may even be dependent on each other. It is a wonderful guide to Shostakovich’s music.’

    —Lord Menuhin

  13. :

    ‘It’s very rare to come across a book that’s so readable… What it does set up, without much doubt, is Solomon Volkov’s essential probity – that he’s done what he’s done honourably. I think he comes out of this very well all round, I have to say.’

    —Stephen Johnson, BBC Music Magazine

  14. :

    ‘Shostakovich’s suffering is over, and Volkov’s suffering is over’

    —Anthony Briggs, BBC Music Magazine

  15. :

    ‘Taking all such indicators together [the evidence presented in Shostakovich Reconsidered, I think it is fair to conclude that Testimony is authentic as an expression of the composer’s views and should probably also be thought of as verbatim.’

    —John Shand, Tempo

  16. :

    ‘Is there still someone in Finland suspecting that Solomon Volkov, editor of ‘The Memoirs of Dmitri Shostakovich’, distorted the words of the composer? Suspicions can now be discarded. Allan Ho and Dmitri Feofanov testify in their new book called Shostakovich Reconsidered, with an immense torrent of facts, that the memoirs are, in all essential parts, discourse which the composer had partly related to people other than Volkov, too’

    —Vesa Sirén, Helsingin Sanomat (Finland); tr. Markus Lång

  17. :

    ‘It has taken nearly 20 years of close collaboration for Allan B. Ho, also a musicologist, and Dmitry Feofanov, a music-loving bilingual attorney, to accumulate the formidable wealth of data that jampacks the 787 pages of their new book Shostakovich Reconsidered […]. They conclude by issuing not only Shostakovich but also Solomon Volkov – who has for years suffered in dignified silence – an unconditionally clean bill of political, ethical, and moral health… Rarely have musicologists – ordinarily rather mild-mannered denizens of the groves of Academe – come in for such an all-out demolition job as is delivered by this book.’

    —Paul Moor, American Record Guide

  18. :

    Shostakovich Reconsidered by Allan B. Ho and Dmitry Feofanov: a polemical book that sets out to prove the validity of the Testimony-line on Shostakovich. In other words it marshals the arguments for Shostakovich not being a Soviet lackey but a secret dissident whose music censures rather than celebrates the regime he was obliged to serve. In doing so it sells a message that most of us have already bought, although the sell is certainly persuasive for any who haven’t.’

    —Michael White, The Independent

  19. :

    ‘Arguments for and against Volkov’s authenticity (but overwhelmingly in his favor) have been masterfully assembled in Shostakovich Reconsidered, written and edited by Allan B. Ho and Dmitri Feofanov, encompassing the work of many authorities and published in London by the Toccata Press. This book is essential reading for anyone interested in Shostakovich.’

    —Joseph McLellan, The Washington Post

  20. :

    ‘I found the arguments fascinating.’

    —Robert Conquest, The Times Literary Supplement

  21. :

    ‘Essential, indispensable, profoundly illuminating, magnificent, superbly documented… [Shostakovich Reconsidered] is a very important book. While I personally felt from the moment it was published that Testimony was true to the Shostakovich I already knew through his music, every aspect of the vituperation to which Solomon Volkov’s volume has been subjected in the intervening years has been comprehensively and impartially examined and refuted by Allan Ho’s and Dmitry Feofanov’s impressive new book. Not only has Volkov been completely exonerated as an honest transcriber; but the Shostakovich whom Shostakovich wished us to know comes more vividly alive than ever through these pages.’

    —Christopher Lyndon-Gee, conductor

  22. :

    ‘Don’t be afraid of picking up this book – even if you know little or nothing about the music of Dmitri Shostakovich. It is very informative and does not fall into the trap, so commonplace in similar ‘academic’ writings, of either patronising the reader, or indeed of blinding him with musicological science. The arguments are clearly presented and well-documented – Shostakovich Reconsidered should prove to be a valuable companion to any music lover’s bookshelf.’

    —Jean Mésan, Musique en Suisse

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