MUSICAL WITNESSES: PROKOFIEV AND SHOSTAKOVICH DURING THE SOVIET ERA- SOLO PIANO, DUOS AND VOCAL CHAMBER MUSIC
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Composing in many different musical forms, Prokofiev and Shostakovich both reflected the turbulent, often overwhelming times in which they lived while being denounced by Soviet authorities as "imitators of decadent, Western bourgeois art." Starting in 1936, having been accused with other artists and writers of "anti-people Formalism", both composers adapted to these new circumstances. Prokofiev turned to composing music for children, films and ballet, while Shostakovich sought refuge in chamber works. Being denounced again in 1948 for "bourgeois Formalism, anti- melodious content and lack of understanding of Soviet heroism", each composer's health and financial situation worsened. Wordless protests found their way into Prokofiev and Shostakovich's music. Examples include grotesque, brutal musical gestures (the 2nd movement of Prokofiev's F minor Violin and Piano Sonata), musical codes and/or quotes (the Shostakovich Viola and Piano Sonata), and symbolic sounds ('bell' sounds reminiscent of Russian Orthodox Churches, 1st movement of the Prokofiev's F minor Violin and Piano Sonata; the 'knocking-at -the-door' rhythm in Shostakovich's Viola and Piano Sonata). Knowing more about Prokofiev and Shostakovich being victimized by the Soviet Union's totalitarian regime, I understood their music as a testimony to their times. This helped me to better appreciate and interpret both composers' musical intents and subtleties. My performance dissertation explored sonatas for piano with cello, violin, viola and flute, vocal chamber music with piano and solo and duo piano works, all written during the composers' years under Soviet control. These works were performed in three recitals at the University of Maryland, documented on compact disc recordings.