Loc: Orange County, California, USA
Andrew Ford The Monthly June 2014
The composers Richard Strauss and Dmitri Shostakovich had little in common musically, but each worked under one of the most brutal dictatorships of the mid 20th century. Many who regard Shostakovich as a tragic hero, for continuing to create his music while remaining in the Soviet Union, are far less generous to Strauss, who lived in Nazi Germany.
When Hitler came to power, Strauss (1864–1949) was in his 70th year and universally regarded as a great composer. He outlived the Nazis by four years. Shostakovich (1906–75) was 11 years old at the time of the Russian Revolution, so he spent his whole musical life under communism. Strauss and Shostakovich each wrote official pieces. Strauss dedicated an orchestral song to Joseph Goebbels in 1933, and his Olympic Hymn was commissioned for the 1936 Berlin Olympics; Shostakovich’s cantata The Song of the Forests (1949) praises Stalin “the great gardener”. Yet while each composer was wooed by his respective government and received state recognition, each fell foul of the authorities and was officially disgraced – in Shostakovich’s case, more than once.