Mravinsky and Shostakovich's 13th

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John F
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Mravinsky and Shostakovich's 13th

Post by John F » Mon Nov 05, 2018 5:38 pm

I've been reading a biography of Yevgeny Mravinsky and turned first to the chapter on his not conducting Shostakovich's Symphony No. 13, " Babiy Yar." It's commonly believed that he wanted to avoid trouble with the authorities because of Yevtushenko's text, but the biographer Gregor Tassie denies this: "The conductor had defended Shostakovich's music so many times, paying no heed to bans when his actions could have easily inflicted serious consequences on both his own career and those of his musicians."

Mravinsky never explained himself, but Tassie suggests several possible reasons. Shostakovich wanted the premiere within a few months, during a period when Mravinsky and the Leningrad Philharmonic would be on tour in the U.S. for much of the time. He almost never conducted choral works; asked why he didn't conduct Beethoven's 9th, he replied, "What, and work again with soloists and a choir? On no account!" His wife was dying of bone cancer and he spent as much time with her as he could. And so on. I'm still not persuaded that fear of official reprisals wasn't also a factor, but maybe it wasn't.

When the Leningrad Philharmonc did perform the 13th it was conducted by Igor Blazhkov, a protege of Mravinsky.
John Francis

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Re: Mravinsky and Shostakovich's 13th

Post by barney » Mon Nov 05, 2018 5:44 pm

It's entirely possible that the reasons were a complex melange which Mravinsky himself might not have been able to disambiguate.

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