Between 1928 and 1953, Communist dictator Joseph Stalin sentenced millions of innocent people to death. Among them were most certainly writers, painters and other artists - but the fate of composers and musicians during this period remains relatively unknown. Through the lives of Prokofiev, Rostropovich and others, historian and Russia expert Michel Krielaars recounts how dramatically Stalin’s reign of terror changed the tone of musical life.
Composers were forced to create music that contributed to the socialist utopia, but the standards were anything but clear. Some chose to adapt and went to great lengths to escape persecution. Others faced charges and arrests. In a series of ten disconcerting biographical portraits, Krielaars describes the gruesome, absurd world that Soviet-era musicians were forced to navigate. Not only does this book follow the lives of well-known composers and musicians, it’s also a tribute to extraordinary talents lost to history, such as composer Vsevolod Zaderatsky and singer Klavdia Shulzhenko, “the Russian Vera Lynn”, whose work was all but destroyed.
‘Ten interesting portraits, not only from celebrities like Sergej Prokofjev, but also lesser known people who seldom receive attention in the Western world.’ – NRC
‘Michel Krielaars unravels a staggering piece of history.’ – De Morgen