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Music for Silenced Voices: Shostakovich and His Fifteen Quartets

4.13  ·  Rating Details  ·  68 Ratings  ·  15 Reviews
Most previous books about Dmitri Shostakovich have focused on either his symphonies and operas, or his relationship to the regime under which he lived, or both, since these large-scale works were the ones that attracted the interest and sometimes the condemnation of the Soviet authorities. "Music for Silenced Voices" looks at Shostakovich through the back door, as it were, ...more
ebook, 368 pages
Published March 8th 2011 by Yale University Press
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Rene Saller
Jul 14, 2013 Rene Saller rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In the epilogue to this meticulously researched and gracefully written Shostakovich study, Wendy Lesser acknowledges the hazards of her project: “Like the interpretation we impose on a work of art in order to bring its alien majesty closer to our understanding, the narrative arc is a device we impose on a life to make it more comprehensible, more graspable. But our interpretation of a life (as of an artwork) could easily be wrong, and in any case it can never be wholly true, for a life is as com ...more
Apr 01, 2016 Lyle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
P. 91
"Half conscious," Kurt Sanderling argues. "Not a conscious protest, but half conscious. No composer, not least Shostakovich, sits down consciously to write about the individual versus society. But the composer sits down and then the conflict finds its expression."

P. 112
If Shostakovich wants to base a particular musical passage on his girlfriend's clarinet trio – or his own initials, or somebody else's first name as he was to do in the Tenth Symphony which came right after the Fifth Quartet
Rob Hermanowski
A fascinating book that explores events in Shostakovich's life (in the former U.S.S.R.) while he wrote his amazing cycle of 15 string quartets (one of the greatest bodies of chamber music ever written). I enjoyed reading the book then listening to each quartet chronologically, mostly driving to and from work. Highly recommended for both modern history buffs and those intersted in classical music.
Tears welled up in my eyes as I finished that last few pages, thinking of the brilliant composer's lungs filling with fluid, saddened that he would never see his viola and piano composition performed. The old man always wrote with a feverish pace, deeply worried that he would die before he saw his work through to the end.

I came to Shostokovich via a performance of his 10th quartet, which I saw at Cal State Northridge. I was absolutely blown away by the furious second movement. Inspired, I began
Apr 13, 2011 Grady rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Conversations over Shostakovich Quartets

Wendy Lesser has done her homework! This 'biography' is obviously a work of love as the author informs us of her introductions to the brilliant quartets of Dmitri Shostakovich and how the immediacy of his pure music, music written out of the limelight (the positive and negative focus) of his endurance of Soviet condemnation, is more a sensitive to his reactions to his life and the people who surrounded his life. Her writing style approaches conversation a
Sep 25, 2012 Stewart rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) was the 20th century’s premier composer of symphonies, with 15, most of them still performed. Having written 15 string quartets, he has to be considered the century’s premier composer in that form as well.
Wendy Lesser, editor of the Threepenny Review in Berkeley, takes a detailed look at those 15 string quartets in her 2011 book, "Music For Silenced Voices: Shostakovich and His Fifteen Quartets."
Lesser analyzes the string quartets and provides biographical back
Sep 24, 2014 Klenk rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
You have to listen to the quartets while you read this. And that could be a problem if you tend to read before you go to bed and if you or your spouse is particularly sensitive to anxiety inducing music.
Feb 02, 2016 Eric rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
While nominally focused on Shostakovich's brilliant string quartets, the book also contains wonderful information about the life of the composer as well. Was very impressed.
I truly admire the composer Shostakovich. My best friend gave me this book for the holidays. Upon completing Music For Silenced Voices, I can't detect and radical change to either of those previous sentences. That said, there was not great deal present to augment an appreciation for the chamber music of the embattled Soviet.

There are yards of filler: anecdotes about Ayn Rand, Chekhov, Zoschchenko and Vasily Grossman: not any of which proved directly pertinent. It could almost be a study of the B
Jul 15, 2012 Jane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed the historical aspects of the book. Learned a lot about the artists and what it was like to be an artist under the communist regime. It was interesting it to view that world through Shostakovich. The author's endless pursuit of explaining Shostakovich's voice in his work became very annoying by the end of the book.
Aug 29, 2011 Dana is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
can't wait to read this.

nyt review:
Jeremy Shatan
Jun 05, 2014 Jeremy Shatan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A beautifully written and concise exploration of a major facet of Shostakovich's catalog. We learn much about the man, his times, and his music.
An engaging introduction to Shostakovich's life and works, and perfectly accessible for non-musicologists/musicians.
Aug 22, 2011 Lindsay rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For a full review check out the upcoming music reference services quarterly!
Guillermo Salas-Suarez
Somtimes too subjective
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Which is your favorite Quartet and why? 1 1 Aug 30, 2012 10:32AM  
Wendy Lesser a critic, novelist, and editor based in Berkeley, California.

She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities, and the New York Public Library's Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers.

More about Wendy Lesser...

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