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Lesser, Wendy: Music for Silenced Voices: Shostakovich and His Fifteen Quartets (hardback)

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Catalogue No: 9780300169331

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Department: Biographies & Reference - Books & Literature (Classical)

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Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: Yale University Press (March 8, 2011)
Language: English
Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.7 x 0.9 inches


"Music for Silenced Voices is a sensitive and enlightening meditation. . . . Lesser, in other words, is giving Shostakovich back to his listeners.”—Paul Mitchinson, Washington Post (Paul Mitchinson The Washington Post )


“Riveting.”—Laurence Vittes, The Huffington Post
(Laurence Vittes The Huffington Post )


“This book is a paean to Shostakovich’s quartets and their significance. In her listening, Lesser…is literate, sensitive, and imaginative.”—Edward Rothstein, The New York Times Book Review
(Edward Rothstein The New York Times Book Review )


"An essential companion for anyone planning to hear the quartets."—Ed Vuillamy, Guardian
(Ed Vuillamy Guardian )


"We need to find new approaches in order to bring music into the mainstream of general culture, where it belongs. Music for Silenced Voices helps to show that this can be done, and done well."—Jessica Duchen, Standpoint
(Jessica Duchen Standpoint )


“Lesser has written a sensitive biography…a generous reflection on his life and chamber music.”—Michael O’Donnell, The Nation
(Michael O'Donnell The Nation )


"An elegant, thought-provoking synthesis of the current state of knowledge and ideas about one of the most celebrated and controversial composers of the twentieth century. It is a delight to read, and reread."—Laurel E. Fay
(Laurel E. Fay )


"Lesser moves between looking at the life as a way of understanding the quartets, and using the music of the quartets as a way of comprehending the complexities of Shostakovich and the manner in which he both negotiated and was pushed through the history of Stalin’s Soviet Union. The always imprecise links between a life and the work that comes out of it are beautifully elucidated. The idea of the quartets as songs for not singing resonates with many other elements of Shostakovich’s contradictory life."—William Kentridge
(William Kentridge )


“Wendy Lesser has written a fantastic book that is as exciting as a detective story. Music for Silenced Voices is a book for those who love Shostakovich and also for those who are going to love Shostakovich after they read it. A must read.”—Menahem Pressler

(Menahem Pressler )


"Wendy Lesser has communicated her enthusiasm and encouraged readers to delve deeply into the Shostakovich quartets."—Miles Hoffman, Wilson Quarterly
(Miles Hoffman Wilson Quarterly )


"A sensitive biography. . . . Her enthusiasm for the quartets is infectious."—Michael O''Donnell, The Nation
(Michael O'Donnell The Nation )


"What makes Lesser''s book such a ripping good read, in addition to deeply considered music appreciation, is her intelligently personal involvement with the subject."—Jonathan Kiefer, SF Weekly
(Jonathan Kiefer SF Weekly )


"A sensitive and enlightening meditation. . . . Lesser is giving Shostakovich back to his listeners."—Paul Mitchinson, The Washington Post
(Paul Mitchinson The Washington Post )


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, of his fifteen quartets, the works which his widow characterized as a "diary, the story of his soul." The silences and the voices were of many kinds, including the political silencing of adventurous writers, artists, and musicians during the Stalin era; the lost voices of Shostakovich's operas (a form he abandoned just before turning to string quartets); and the death-silenced voices of his close friends, to whom he dedicated many of these chamber works.

Wendy Lesser has constructed a fascinating narrative in which the fifteen quartets, considered one at a time in chronological order, lead the reader through the personal, political, and professional events that shaped Shostakovich's singular, emblematic twentieth-century life. Weaving together interviews with the composer's friends, family, and colleagues, as well as conversations with present-day musicians who have played the quartets, Lesser sheds new light on the man and the musician. One of the very few books about Shostakovich that is aimed at a general rather than an academic audience, Music for Silenced Voices is a pleasure to read; at the same time, it is rigorously faithful to the known facts in this notoriously complicated life. It will fill readers with the desire to hear the quartets, which are among the most compelling and emotionally powerful monuments of the past century's music.

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