Some music quickly drifts free of its history, the details of commissions and premieres the stuff of learned program notes and pre-concert lectures. Other works carry the moment of their birth like a permanent shadow. Stalin’s terror was in the air and Shostakovich was not yet 30 when he received the first dangerous condemnation of his artistic path, as published in a now notorious Pravda editorial entitled “Muddle Instead of Music.” It was the first blow in a lifelong cat-and-mouse game with the Soviet regime. We know the images of the older Shostakovich, hiding behind spectacles as thick as plate glass and music sheathed in double-meanings.
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