Le grand compositeur russe Dimitri Chostakovitch (1906-1975) se caractérise par un enracinement dans l’environnement politique, social et culturel de son époque, plus profond que celui de la plupart des musiciens de tous les temps. En tant que compositeur, il était si intimement attaché à la Russie que l’on a peine à imaginer que son talent ait pu s’épanouir hors des frontières de sa patrie. A cet égard, il se distinguait fondamentalement d’Igor Stravinski ou de Serge Prokofiev, capables de vivre et de travailler aussi bien en Occident qu’en Russie, à la condition d’y trouver des esprits susceptibles d’apprécier leur musique… / Typically – and more so than that of almost any other musician – the music of the great Russian composer Dimitry Shostakovich (1906-1975) was deeply rooted in the social, cultural and political context of his time. He was so closely attached to his native Russia in his work as a composer that it is hard to imagine that he could possibly have developed his full musical potential anywhere else. In this he was very unlike Stravinsky or Prokofiev, for example, who, providing their music was appreciated, were equally at ease living and working in the West as in Russia.

 

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Au contraire, presque toutes les œuvres majeures de Chostakovitch ont été écrites en réaction à des événements survenus dans son pays. Ce n’est pas sans raison qu’il a été qualifié « chroniqueur de son époque » : il suffit, pour s’en convaincre, de songer aux œuvres qu’il a composées pour des occasions précises, telles que la Deuxième Symphonie « dédiée à Octobre », destinée aux cérémonies du dixième anniversaire de la Révolution, ou encore Le Chant des forêts, un oratorio sur le reboisement des friches, qui appuyait les directives staliniennes sur la transformation de la nature. Le contenu programmatique émotionnel de beaucoup d’autres œuvres est nettement plus important et tout à fait tangible, bien qu’évidemment plus difficile à décrire. En cela, Chostakovitch se situait dans le droit fil de la tradition russe, que reflètent les œuvres de nombreux compositeurs et, surtout celles de Modeste Moussorgski, de Piotr Tchaikowski et de Serge Rachmaninov. Depuis des générations, les mélomanes russes étaient habitués à entendre de la musique chargée d’une puissante affectivité. Aussi ne faut-il pas s’étonner de la grande compréhension que rencontra rapidement l’œuvre de Chostakovitch auprès de ses auditeurs, en dépit de sa complexité et de son modernisme indéniable.

All of Shostakovich’s major works were written as a reaction to events that took place in his native Russia. He has been described, justifiably, as a ‘chronicler of his time’ – we only have to think, for example, of his Second Symphony, ‘To October’, written for the tenth anniversary of the Revolution, or his Song of the forests, an oratorio about the reforestation of abandoned land, following Stalin’s directives about the transformation of the natural landscape. And many other works manifest a programmatic content of a clearly emotional nature that is obviously more difficult to describe. In this Shostakovich was in fact totally in line with Russian tradition: we find the same features in the works of Mussorgsky, Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov, to name but a few. Generations of Russian music-lovers had been accustomed to listening to music that expressed strong emotion, which explains why – despite its complexity and undoubted modernism – Shostakovich’s œuvre met with such ready acceptance and understanding from Russian audiences. The ideas that Shostakovich slipped surreptitiously into his compositions were generally discernible to music lovers. At a time when most Soviet writers were in the service of the criminal regime, and the cinema, painting and architecture, too, were completely under the Stalinist yoke, Shostakovich’s music, which by its very nature escaped concrete interpretation, enjoyed a certain margin of freedom. Many people therefore saw him not only as an embodiment of the great art of music, but also, and above all, as a composer whose music was capable of expressing the feelings of the tens of thousands of Russians who lived in oppression. So Shostakovich was Russia’s official ‘number one’ composer in Stalin’s day, despite the fact that a) his works were a constant embarrassment to the regime and b) many listeners interpreted them as a protest against tyranny, with its proliferation of trouble and violence. This aspect was particularly perceptible in his Symphonies, and from no. 5 onwards, each one was treated as a great national event.

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