Allan B. Ho and Dmitry Feofanov
With an overture by Vladimir Ashkenazy
Music and Society (non-ISSN series)
ISBN: 978-0-907689-56-0 – Hardback
ISBN: 978-0-907689-57-7 – Paperback
Extent: 791 pages
Size: 14.5 x 22.4 x 4.8 cm
Weight: 1.06 kg
Published: August 1998
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.
[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.
BBC Music Magazine
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.
The Daily Telegraph
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.
one of those indispensable books on your shelf
[…] 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.
The Times Literary Supplement
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.
The Sun, Kuala Lumpur
[…] 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.
A thoroughly researched and well written investigation of the composer-as-dissident. […]
[…] a wealth of information for any serious (and not-so-serious) Shostakovich scholar […]
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.