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Publisher's Summary

Dmitri Shostakovich is without a doubt one of the central composers of the 20th century. His symphonies and string quartets are mainstays of the repertoire. But Shostakovich is also a figure whose story raises challenging and exciting issues that go far beyond music: they touch on questions of conscience, the moral role of the artist, the plight of humanity in the face of total war and mass oppression, and the inner life of history's bloodiest century. And though he was not without flaws, he was a faithful witness to the survival of the human spirit under totalitarianism.
And now you can discover the extraordinary life, times, and music of Shostakovich in a probing series of eight lectures from an acclaimed conductor, teacher, and music historian. Drawing on both the flood of declassified documents from the Soviet Union that began in 1991 and Shostakovich's own extraordinarily frank posthumous reminiscences, Professor Greenberg shows how Shostakovich, who, in the words of a friend, "did not want to rot in a prison or a graveyard" was still unwilling to become a docile instrument of the Soviet regime.
You'll learn how what he would not say publicly in words, he instead said through his music - messages from a buried life of his experiences during the terror of Stalin, the Nazi destruction of his country, postwar reconstruction, and the arms race.
In work after work, often composed under crushing difficulty and anxiety, you'll hear how he used a brilliant arsenal of ironic conceits, musical quotes from un-Soviet sources such as American jazz or Jewish klezmer tunes, and other techniques to assert the integrity of his art in the face of totalitarian oppression, and to pay, as he said, "homage to the dead."

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2002 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2002 The Great Courses
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Cookie on 08-14-13

Living the Great Terror

Prof Greenberg brings us through the life of this great composer against the backdrop of Stalin's regime during the purges before and after WW2. It is an unforgettable tour de force of music and history that makes you cringe and maybe even cry. Set in context, this body of work is a microcosm of the horror, and yet beautiful too. We stand in awe of what it took to bring art out of this turmoil that was the USSR when just surviving was a risk. Listening to this series is will bring it to life, amazing!

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5 of 5 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Danimike on 05-06-15

Utterly fascinating!

What made the experience of listening to Great Masters: Shostakovich - His Life and Music the most enjoyable?

Shostakovich was a musical genius working during very difficult times. Because his life was always at risk during the Stalin and post-Stalin eras, he had to walk a very fine line to survive. What makes his music particularly fascinating is the way he wove irony and dissonance into the melodic lines. Stalin and his henchmen perceived the music as heroic, a tribute to the triumph of their reign, but anyone with ears and a clear head would perceive in the same sounds a scathing indictment of the Soviet leaders' crimes against humanity. Robert Greenberg is as entertaining as he is brilliant. I particularly enjoyed his send-up of the American academic elite, who discounted Shostakovich's condemnation of the Soviet Union because it didn't conform to their preferred narrative about the virtues of Communism.Greenberg points out that in the years from the revolution to the dissolution of the Soviet Union, 61 million civilians were slaughtered--nearly three times Hitler's bodycount--a number that is recently being discredited for being too low (!) Shostakovich would be the first to say he wasn't a hero--but he was a survivor and a witness. His music is the ultimate refutation of totalitarianism and testament to the importance of artistic and personal freedom. Don't miss it!

What other book might you compare Great Masters: Shostakovich - His Life and Music to and why?

Greenberg's course on Beethoven is completely amazing. I'll be listening to more of his courses soon.

What does Professor Robert Greenberg bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Insight, expertise, personality, and a wonderfully entertaining delivery. Greenberg doesn't read: he performs!

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By David on 09-12-17

Shostakovich in the raw

Shostakovich is one of the great composers. The lectures put his works in perspective.
Controversy about the composers life has been contentious over the last years of the 20th century. Whether you agree with the lecturer or not this is an important work Well worth the listen .

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