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Composer Galina Ustvolskaya: The Shostakovich-Trained Iconoclast – Lyric Say

Composer Galina Ustvolskaya (1919-2006) has been known as “the lady with the hammer” and is thought for her connection to Dmitri Shostakovich.

Galina Ustvolskaya and her dog

Galina Ustvolskaya and her canine

However she was a lot greater than this. She was additionally fiercely unbiased, staggeringly proficient, and fully unafraid. She not solely refused to slot in a musical mould however threw out that mould totally.

As we speak, we’re having a look on the life and occasions of Soviet composer Galina Ustvolskaya.

Ustvolskaya’s Childhood

Galina Ustvolskaya was born on 17 June 1919 in Petrograd to an unmusical household. Her father was a lawyer, and her mom was a instructor from impoverished the Aristocracy.

Her childhood was lonely and full of monetary pressures.

“I would wear an old coat of my father’s (which was too long for me) and his muffler, which I gave to a young friend. I loved to give gifts, although we did not have anything to spare. Since childhood, I could not tolerate these kinds of pressures.”

Her want for monetary safety would later impression her profession selections.

She liked music deeply from an early age. When she was younger, her dad and mom took her to a efficiency of Tchaikovsky’s opera Eugene Onegin, however the household needed to go away when she began crying. “I want to be an orchestra,” she instructed them.

Time with Shostakovich

Ustvolskaya studied at a college for younger folks related to the Leningrad Conservatory. In 1939, when she turned twenty, she joined Dmitri Shostakovich’s composition class. That yr, she was the one girl in that class.

Shostakovich was intrigued by her and in awe of her expertise. “I am convinced that the music of G. I. Ustvolskaya will achieve world fame and be valued by all who hold truth to be the essential element of music,” he wrote as soon as. He additionally stated, “It is not you who are under my influence, but I who am under yours.”

He valued her opinion a lot that he requested for her suggestions on his personal compositions. He additionally used a theme from her clarinet trio in his fifth string quartet (from 1952) and his Suite on Verses of Michelangelo Buonarroti (from 1974, towards the very finish of his life).

USTVOLSKAYA: Trio for Clarinet, Violin, and Piano

Dmitri Shostakovich – String Quartet No 5, Op. 92

Ustvolskaya studied in his class twice – as soon as from 1939 to 1941 and once more from 1947 to 1948. That six-year break coincided with the struggle, in addition to the devastating two-and-a-half-year siege of Leningrad.

A month into the siege of Leningrad, Shostakovich was evacuated to Moscow and Ustvolskaya to Tashkent, the current-day capital of Uzbekistan, together with others linked to the Conservatory. In 1943, she labored in a hospital within the metropolis of Tikhvin, 2 hundred kilometers from St. Petersburg.

Galina Ustvolskaya at the piano

Galina Ustvolskaya

She later made it very clear that she was not eager on an affiliation with Shostakovich. She known as his music “dry and lifeless” and wrote to her writer, “One thing remains as clear as day: a seemingly eminent figure such as Shostakovich, to me, is not eminent at all, on the contrary, he burdened my life and killed my best feelings.”

Her distaste for him could have been rooted in extra-musical causes. She later claimed that Shostakovich proposed marriage to her, however she turned him down.

Later, she went even additional: “There is no link whatsoever between my music and that of any other composer, living or dead,” she as soon as proclaimed.

Galina Ustvolskaya: Piano Sonata No.1

Ustvolskaya and Soviet Propaganda

From 1947 to 1977, she taught composition on the Leningrad Conservatory. She didn’t consider herself as a very proficient professor – composition was her true calling – however educating was a technique to make a residing.

In February 1948, a decision went out from the Soviet authorities, accusing some composers of Formalism (i.e., failing to compose music that totally supported the state).

After this, she break up her artistic self into two elements. One composed propaganda items acceptable to Soviet management, whereas the opposite wrote secret avant-garde works that she knew may by no means be heard.

Galina Ustvolskaya: Poem No 1

Writing music to please the authorities was soul-destroying, however she was apparently excellent at it. Her tone poem Stepan Razin’s Dream opened the Leningrad Philharmonic’s 1949 season, to acclaim. She was even nominated for the Stalin Prize.

Nonetheless, in 1962, she hit her restrict. From that point on, she vowed to solely write what she actually needed to jot down, and he or she labored to destroy all traces of all the things she ever wrote for political causes.

Happily, later within the century, the Soviet Union began being simpler on modernist composers, and permitting them to share a few of their extra controversial music. Ustvolskaya slowly started sharing a few of the music she’d been holding hidden.

Ustvolskaya’s Later Years

Galina Ustvolskaya

Galina Ustvolskaya

By the Seventies the Leningrad Union of Composers started presenting evenings of her music, and critics have been impressed.

Her music has a number of distinguishing options, together with excessive dynamics, uncommon instrumentation, and brutal and relentless repetition.

The web site Ustvolskaya.org writes, “Ustvolskaya’s music is unique, unlike anything else; it is exceedingly expressive, brave, austere, and full of tragic pathos achieved through the most modest of expressive means.”

Galina Ustvolskaya: Sonata No. 6

Sadly, for years, hardly anyone exterior the Soviet Union heard it. However in 1989 her work was carried out on the Holland Competition, and it made a giant impression on audiences.

She was residing as a little bit of a hermit by the Nineteen Nineties, however she traveled to Amsterdam to look at performances of her work. Though she hated interviews, she agreed to 1 with journalist Thea Derk. However when the time for the interview got here, she almost backed out, and solely agreed to partake after she was assured she might reply questions with monosyllables, with out elaboration. (Fortunately, Derk was in a position to get greater than that out of her.)

She was requested how she favored the efficiency she’d heard. “Not very much,” she stated bluntly. She elaborated: “The acoustics were not favourable, so that the piano didn’t come out properly, and the five double basses should have been placed more to the front. Moreover, the ensemble, recruited more or less ad hoc from members of the Concertgebouw orchestra, hadn’t as yet properly mastered the score, and the reciter wasn’t adequately amplified. But yesterday it was better and I hope it will again be better tonight.”

Ustvolskaya’s Dying and Legacy

A perfectionist iconoclast to the tip, Galina Ustvolskaya died in 2006 in St. Petersburg. She was eighty-seven years previous.

In 1998 she gave an outline of her life to an interviewer that serves as a form of thesis assertion about her music:

“The works written by me were often hidden for long periods. But then if they did not satisfy me, I destroyed them. I do not have drafts; I compose at the table, without an instrument. Everything is thought out with such care that it only needs to be written down. I’m always in my thoughts. I spend the nights thinking as well, and therefore do not have time to relax. Thoughts gnaw me. My world possesses me completely, and I understand everything in my own way. I hear, I see, and I act differently from others. I just live my lonely life.”

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