Considering “Russianness” and music by Russian composers, with Ukraine invasion as a backdrop

Posted on: March 30, 2022

“The Russian invasion of Ukraine has created a cultural panic of a kind that has not been seen in generations,” writes Alex Ross in Thursday’s (3/24) New Yorker. “Several performers with strong ties to Vladimir Putin … have seen their careers in Europe and America evaporate. In a few isolated cases, classic Russian works have been pulled from programs…. No protests materialized the other night when the Los Angeles Philharmonic … presented a mostly Russian program … Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s ‘Metacosmos,’ Prokofiev’s First Piano Concerto, and the Shostakovich Tenth…. The orchestra trusted its audience to grapple with two composers whose lives in Stalinist Russia were immensely fraught and whose relationship with whatever is meant by Russianness was complex. This seemed the right approach…. Shostakovich had more in common with his English counterpart Benjamin Britten than with any of his Russian contemporaries. Prokofiev was closer to Ravel or Poulenc than to Shostakovich…. Shostakovich carries that sense of a lost homeland through his work… It may overlap with the Russia of his birth, but it also borders on the music of other lands and on the inner landscape of his imagination…. It no longer belongs to one land or one time.”