'A rare look at the life and music of renowned Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov

 

During his lifetime, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844–1908) was a composer whose work had great influence not only in his native Russia but also internationally. While he remains well-known in Russia—where many of his fifteen operas and various orchestral pieces are still in the standard repertoire—very little of his work is performed in the West today beyond Scheherezade and arrangements of The Flight of the Bumblebee. In Western writings, he appears mainly in the context of the Mighty Handful, a group of five Russian composers to which he belonged at the outset of his career. Rimsky-Korsakov and His World finally gives the composer center stage and due attention.

 

In this collection, Rimsky-Korsakov’s major operas, The Snow Maiden, Mozart and Salieri, and The Golden Cockerel, receive multifaceted exploration and are carefully contextualized within the wider Russian culture of the era. The discussion of these operas is accompanied and enriched by the composer’s letters to Nadezhda Zabela, the distinguished soprano for whom he wrote several leading roles. Other essays look at more general aspects of Rimsky-Korsakov’s work and examine his far-reaching legacy as a professor of composition and orchestration, including his impact on his most famous pupil Igor Stravinsky.' (Princeton University Press)

Marina Frolova-Walker and Patrick Zuk (eds), Russian Music Since 1917 (OUP/British Academy, 2017)

'This ground-breaking collection of essays, which arises from a unique collaboration between leading scholars based on either side of the former Iron Curtain, is the first attempt to appraise the current state of research on the development of Russian art music since the 1917 Revolution. Part I provides a comprehensive critical overview of recent research both in Russia itself and outside it, outlining the principal changes in approach and emphasis. The remaining essays engage with topics of key importance, including: the envisionings of music's place in Soviet and post-Soviet cultural life; the effects of state controls on musical creativity and performance; musical institutions; the Russian musical diaspora; and the transition to the post-Soviet period.

 

The contributions vividly illustrate the transformation of scholarship in the field since glasnost. In the USSR, scholarship had been seriously hindered by censorship, while in the West, Soviet music and musical life tended to be assessed from entrenched aesthetic and ideological standpoints engendered by the Cold War. The dramatically changed climate of the post-Soviet period has made possible a more objective and informed discussion of many issues, and has led scholars to question the validity of 'top-down' models of the interaction between musicians and the state that had previously been predominant. 

 

The book will be not only be a valuable resource for university courses on Russian music at undergraduate and postgraduate level, but essential reading for all those interested in Soviet and post-Soviet culture.' (Oxford University Press)

Marina Frolova-Walker,

Stalin's Music Prize: Soviet Culture and Politics

(Yale University Press, 2016)

'Marina Frolova-Walker’s fascinating history takes a new look at musical life in Stalin’s Soviet Union. The author focuses on the musicians and composers who received Stalin Prizes, awarded annually to artists whose work was thought to represent the best in Soviet culture. This revealing study sheds new light on the Communist leader’s personal tastes, the lives and careers of those honored, including multiple-recipients Prokofiev and Shostakovich, and the elusive artistic concept of “Socialist Realism,” offering the most comprehensive examination to date of the relationship between music and the Soviet state from 1940 through 1954.' (Yale University Press)

Marina Frolova-Walker and Jonathan Walker,

Music and Soviet Power, 1917-1932 (Boydell, 2012)

'The October Revolution of 1917 tore the fabric of Russian musical life: institutions collapsed, and leading composers emigrated or fell into silence. But in 1932, at the outset of the 'socialist realist' period, a new Stalinist music culture was emerging. Between these two dates lies a turbulent period of change which this book charts year by year. It sheds light on the vicious power struggles and ideological wars, the birth of new aesthetic credos, and the gradual increase of Party and state control over music, in the opera houses, the concert halls, the workers' clubs, and on the streets.

The book not only provides a detailed and nuanced depiction of the early Soviet musical landscape, but brings it to life by giving voice to the leading actors and commentators of the day. The vibrant public discourse on music is presented through a selection of press articles, reviews and manifestos, all supplied with ample commentary. These myriad sources offer a new context for our understanding of Shostakovich, Prokofiev and Myaskovsky, while also showing how Western music was received in the USSR. This, however, is only half the story. The other half emerges from the private dimension of this cultural upheaval, traced through the letters, diaries and memoirs left by composers and other major players in the music world. These materials address the beliefs, motivations and actions of the Russian musical intelligentsia during the painful period of their adjustment to the changing demands of the new state.

While following the twists and turns of official policies on music, the authors also offer their own explanations for the outcomes. The book offers unprecedented access to primary sources that have been unavailable in English, or which lay unknown on archival shelves. Music and Soviet Power offers cultural history told through documents - both colourful and representative - with an extensive commentary and annotation throughout.' (Boydell and Brewer) 

Marina Frolova-Walker,

Russian music and nationalism from Glinka to Stalin

(Yale University Press, 2007)

'Challenging what is widely regarded as the distinguishing feature of Russian music—its ineffable “Russianness”—Marina Frolova-Walker examines the history of Russian music from the premiere of Glinka's opera A Life for the Tsar in 1836 to the death of Stalin in 1953, the years in which musical nationalism was encouraged and endorsed by the Russian state and its Soviet successor.

 

The author identifies and discusses two central myths that dominated Russian culture during this period—that art revealed the Russian soul, and that this nationalist artistic tradition was founded by Glinka and Pushkin. The author also offers a critical account of how the imperatives of nationalist thought affected individual composers. In this way Frolova-Walker provides a new perspective on the brilliant creativity, innovation, and eventual stagnation within the tradition of Russian nationalist music.'

(Yale University Press)