Dmitri Shostakovich's political views have long been subjects of controversy. Was Shostakovich a loyal Communist, or was he a secret rebel who suffered for years under oppressive conditions and yet contrived time and again to encode powerful subversive messages into his music?
Well, I hate to make light of questions that for Shostakovich himself may truly have been issues of life and death. But in the long run, the answer is simple: It doesn't much matter. What matters is that Shostakovich was a brilliant composer who wrote wonderful music. What he was thinking or feeling when he wrote it is anybody's guess, and most guesses will be wrong. They will be wrong because from bar to bar and note to note a composer's creative choices are musical, not political. And creative genius in music, as in all the arts, remains a mystery. Did Shostakovich have to contend with dreadful circumstances in the Soviet Union? Certainly. But so did many others, and we’re not still playing their music.
A Minute with Miles is a production of South Carolina Public Radio, made possible by the J.M. Smith Corporation