The noble friendship of Ivan Solertensky and Dmitriy Shostakovich

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Few Soviet composers benefited from such immense and sustained interest from the artistic world as Dmitriy Shostakovich, during his life and until his death in 1975. His music, his public or hidden ideas, every part of his existence, relentlessly scrutinized by the authoritarian political system, has been the subject of commentary. Continuing from the musical, literary and artistic realms on a larger scale. The vicissitudes and dangers of real and threatened dictatorial political power under Stalin and his successors permeated his life, his behavior, and the somewhat opportunistic reactions of those invited to comment on his actions, gestures, human choices, and filtered music. Through analyzes disturbed by concerns, interests and immediate calculations. This exhibition devotes segments from the life of the Soviet musical world centered around the person and work of Shostakovich by those who came close to him. To access the full profile: Shostakovich by his Soviet contemporaries

Meeting Between Dmitriy Shostakovich and Ivan Solertensky resulted in complicity, respect and mutual enrichment as there is little in the history of human relations.

Shostakovich frequents many Soviet personalities with somewhat intimacy and originality, but his relationship with Ivan Solertensky brought him to the height of friendship, which brought together two people of great human and artistic value.

It is widely believed that Ivan Solertensky, born in 1902, five years before Shostakovich, was highly educated and intelligent. Demonstrate great ease and masterful mastery in various fields, be it theatre, arts or languages ​​(speak by the dozens). He finally chose a musical career to become a professor at the Leningrad Conservatory, artistic director of the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra and above all a brilliant and in-demand lecturer, especially for its sparkling concert. He founded circles whose activities were centered on Gustav Mahler and Anton Bruckner, from which he preferred several premieres in the Soviet Union.

friendship story

The two young men met briefly in 1921, nothing more. In 1926, they met again on the occasion of a meeting during which they passed the tests of Marxism-Leninism imposed by Soviet power. Dmitry was impressed, he saw how well Ivan knew. But soon after, through another character, their relationship will take an unexpected turn. At that time, the young composer diligently frequented the conductor Nikolai Malko (1883-1961) who took the position of director of the Leningrad Philharmonic between 1925 and 1929. Symphony No. 1 His student on May 12, 1926. Later, he would choose to emigrate and pursue a brilliant European and then American career.

Musically and socially, despite some sporadic falls, Malko represented a notable step forward in the progression of the young and already famous composer. So he met 19-year-old Dmitriy at the chef’s house and really appreciated the character of 25-year-old Ivan Solertensky. The owners have been the witness and initiator of the birth and development of this beautiful friendship for years. “I introduced Ivan to Mitya. Soon they became friends and in the end could not be seen without each other. » To clarify: “When Shostakovich and Solertensky were together, they were always a little ridiculous … alternating between jokes and serious and scientific remarks, alternating bright and austere; they shared their feelings … “, but also their impressions of the music they listen to, shared readings or not. Exalted, Dmitriy (or dead for those close to him) falsely confessed to his sister that he had just met a new and wonderful friend: Ivan Ivanovich Solertensky. Since then, they have been visiting each other almost daily, and for whole days. Zora also reported on the extraordinary breadth of her culture and also highlighted the timbre of her voice. It also confirms that they soon became inseparable.

Ivan’s first wife, Irina Derzaeva, left this description. The two partners withdrew for a long time in the couple’s apartment and talked endlessly. For her, they simply fell in love. inseparable. It specifies that Solertensky never tires of repeating: “Shostakovich is a genius. We will understand that with time.” Ivan’s second wife confirmed this extraordinary bond by specifying: “Simply put, they loved each other passionately and could not hide their happiness to be together.”

Since then, this man of many qualities has become one of Dmitriy Shostakovich’s closest friends and even his precious confidant. He did not spare his energy and reputation by passionately defending the music of his friend Dmitry. In the successive stages of his creative journey, he regularly benefited from Evan’s encouragement and positive feedback. Ivan gave him his outspoken support, particularly during the formative period (1927-1928) and performing the nose In Leningrad on January 18, 1930And the His first friend’s opera, which was a real public success for the first time, before it began to suffer from unfavorable official commentary.

From the beginning of the thirties, Solertensky published articles regarding his friend’s new findings and participated in many discussions regarding them. He noticed that Dmitriy had nothing to do with what the typical romantic creator conveys, dispensing with waiting for inspiration and writing at a confusing speed and without long preparation, under the influence of colossal mastery of writing. The educated music friend and passionate debater spoke without relying so much on light music as on so-called earnest points; He became one of the greatest Soviet specialists in the work of Gustav Mahler. Moreover, he brought his friend to appreciate the music of Brahms, Offenbach, Johann Strauss and Bruckner.

Later, around 1936, at the time of particularly stormy debates over opera Lady Macbeth from Mzensk, his second opera, solemn disgrace befell Shostakovich’s life and hard work. Its very existence was seriously threatened by the wrath of Stalin and his obedient followers. Ivan courageously provided him with inexhaustible support. He sometimes got involved recklessly, for example by saying that Soviet music had something regional in it. The condemnation and blacklisting of Shostakovich’s music was preceded by a noticeable abandonment on the part of the vast majority of his colleagues, wary, afraid or jealous. Sollertinsky, overshadowed by charitable positions. The failures recorded by some of the critic’s compositions have not discouraged the critic, even if the latter has on several occasions emphasized the artistic and aesthetic risks, which the composer finally assumes (for example: Stream scan).

Shostakovich terribly feared that he would be deported or eliminated by unlimited political power and had to retain deep and lasting psychological scars from this imposed proximity to death. Sollertinsky’s defense is not enough to appease threats and the authority’s decisions to ban a large portion of her catalog. However, the constant and benevolent presence of his friend was an undeniable help to him.

His extraordinary public success Symphony No. 5 Her return to grace occurred during the creation that took place in Leningrad with the city orchestra under the direction of the legendary Evgeny Mravinsky on November 21, 1937. And at the level of criticism, the opposition between the convinced and imitators continued, this goes without saying, but with less intensity.

The sudden and brutal invasion by Hitler’s German army of Stalinist Soviet Russia broke out on June 22, 1941 and led to the upheaval of Russian society. The two friends were separated.

Shostakovich was forced to leave Leningrad, was sent to Moscow and then to Kuibyshev, on the banks of the Volga. Ivan Solerstensky found himself in Novosibirsk (Siberia) with all the employees of the Leningrad Philharmonic. Tireless, he organized many parties and conferences there.

These dramatic events in Leningrad

The Symphony No. 7 She would have known undeniable worldwide success after her establishment at Kouïbychev on March 5, 1942. While she was greatly appreciated, Sollertinsky showed a clear preference for the following, deep and complex Symphony No. 8, which was created in Moscow on November 4, 1943, under the direction of Moravisky. He described it as “incomparably more interesting than Seventh “It is an opinion that many followers did not share at the time. An inescapable note when we admit today that eighth It is considered one of the masterpieces of the twentieth centurye century. On February 5, 1944, a Symphony No. 8 She appeared in Novosibirsk, on the shores of the Black Sea, after a presentation by Sollertinsky, which would be the last public speech of the world of music.

Suddenly, without warning signs apart from extreme fatigue and precarious living conditions, on the night of February 10-11, 1944, in a full sleep, Ivan Solertensky suddenly died of a heart attack. He was only 41 years old. Shostakovich did not hide his despair and emphasized that life without his friend would be very difficult. Inconsolable, dedicated to his memory of him Trio with piano, violin and cello No. 2, One of the heights of his chamber musicAnd the Which began six months before his first public performance in Leningrad on November 14, 1944, during which he performed the piano part.

Thus ended this wonderful human adventure. Shortly before that, Ivan baptized his son Dmitry Ivanovich, born from his third marriage. As for the composer, he once captured: “I owe a lot to my friendships with Sollertinsky.”

Additional reading

Karon Jean-Luc, Dmitriy ShostakovichHorizons Collection No. 88, Midnight Blue Editor, 2021.

FAIRCLOUGH POLINE, Dmitriy ShostakovichReaction Books, 2019.

Mayer Krzysztof, Dmitriy ShostakovichFayard, 1994.

Mr. Wilson Elizabeth, Shostakovich: A Life in MemoryFaber and Faber, 2006.

Image credits: Shostakovich and Slitinsky in Novosibirsk in 1942 © Cultural Heritage Series / Artistic Director: Oksana Dvornichenko

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More details

Few Soviet composers benefited from such immense and sustained interest from the artistic world as Dmitriy Shostakovich, during his life and until his death in 1975. His music, his public or hidden ideas, every part of his existence, relentlessly scrutinized by the authoritarian political system, has been the subject of commentary. Continuing from the musical, literary and artistic realms on a larger scale. The vicissitudes and dangers of real and threatened dictatorial political power under Stalin and his successors permeated his life, his behavior, and the somewhat opportunistic reactions of those invited to comment on his actions, gestures, human choices, and filtered music. Through analyzes disturbed by concerns, interests and immediate calculations. This exhibition devotes segments from the life of the Soviet musical world centered around the person and work of Shostakovich by those who came close to him. To access the full profile: Shostakovich by his Soviet contemporaries

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