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Testimony: The Memoirs of Dmitri Shostakovich Paperback – October, 1984

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Editorial Reviews


"'I do not know of a musician who will not read it with compassion and admiration' Andre Previn" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Language Notes

Text: English, Russian (translation)

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 289 pages
  • Publisher: Limelight Editions; 7th edition (October 1984)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0879100214
  • ISBN-13: 978-0879100216
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.2 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,225,802 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

I recommend that anyone who reads the book also read the preface and introduction.
N. E. Fox
He was well cultured, and makes frequent references to important Russians in theater and literature, as well as in music and history.
M. Lang
Compare the information from Elizabeth Wilson's book on Dmitri Shostakovich to Testimony and similarities can easily be found.
David A. Wend

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

53 of 57 people found the following review helpful By I. J. J. Nieuwland on July 23, 2001
Format: Paperback
Instead of flaming one another on the topic of 'Testimony' based on our political preference, we might do better looking at the quality of the text itself. Because whether it is Dmitri Shostakovich' own story or a first-person novel by Volkov, this is a deeply engrossing, chillingly emotional and intensely tragic tale about the cost of fame in the Stalin years. And whether the precise details of the story are accurate or not, I have little doubt - also based on other 'testimonies' - that in that respect this one hits the nail on the head. The matter of its relation to Shostakovich' music is more problematic. Statements often quite explicitly contradict earlier opinions by Shostakovich, even if there seems no political reason for doing this. See, for instance, his description of the first symphony. I can hardly imagine any conspiracy being at work here - there are far more explicit condemnations of the Soviet Union to be found. As a document of cultural history, this is a very important text, and anyone interested in Shostakovich, his life, and his work, will be forced to form an opinion about 'Testimony'
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47 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Paul-John Ramos on January 20, 2009
Format: Paperback
Dmitri Shostakovich, now over thirty years removed from his death in 1975, represents one of the greatest virtues in art: that it can break painful silences and transcend an oppressive few for the good of many. Unlike the minor roles that classical composers hold in society nowadays, the premiere of a Shostakovich symphony, string quartet, or song cycle was a major, socially relevant happening. In extraordinary instances like his Seventh and Eighth Symphonies (written in 1941 and 1943), Shostakovich's work attracted millions of listeners throughout the world. It is a separate issue as to whether or not the composers of today have isolated themselves from the masses, but Shostakovich's music was certainly a willing and able contributor to the betterment of mankind.

By the time that Shostakovich and musicologist Solomon Volkov are said to have begun work on 'Testimony' in 1971, the 65-year-old composer was much a living record of Soviet cultural history. Shostakovich's pensive look was conditioned by the Bolshevik Revolution, its difficult aftermath, the Second World War, persecutions at the hands of Josef Stalin, and a continuous siege on Russian artists of every medium. According to Volkov, these experiences had grown cobwebs in Shostakovich's mind; no Soviet citizen discussed history under the Stalinist regime, which was equally heart-wrenching and dangerous. Letters, diaries, and other written records were destroyed to prevent 'guilt by association' and avoid one's sentence to the Gulag. Fear and paranoia were inevitable results: even during the slow 'Thaw' under Nikita Khrushchev, Shostakovich remained largely silent (except for his music) and kept memories under wraps.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By David A. Wend on September 15, 2006
Format: Paperback
Testimony: The Memories of Dmitri Shostakovich has undergone a lot of scrutiny since it was published in 1979. It was accepted as authentic by many at the time, was treated as a fraud and by others and with skepticism by people like Maxim Shostakovich. Seventeen years later, I think that we can accept this book as memories related to Solomon Volkov by the composer; this year a new edition of the book will appear in Russia with a foreword by Shostakovich's daughter Galya and Maxim. Their acceptance of the book has helped to convince me that it is authentic.

However, this is hardly a comprehensive book of memories. The book covers Shostakovich's professional life rather than his personal life; there is little mentioned about the composer's family. His wife Nina is mentioned only once in noting that Lady Macbeth was dedicated to her. The important people in Dmitri Shostakovich's professional life, like Glazunov, Tukhachesvsky and Meyerhold are much more fully portrayed, and there are some interesting anecdotes about them and many of Shostakovich's colleagues. But perhaps what is most fascinating parts of the book deal with the frustration and horror with which Shostakovich describes life under Stalin. I found this part of the book chilling and reading it gave me a fuller understanding of what life is like not only without freedom but to live with fear.

The book reads like an interview but without the questions that are being asked of the composer. It is as if a series on anecdotes were collected together to form each chapter. But what has always convinced me that the majority of Testimony reflected the composer's thought is that these anecdotes square with encounters with the composer that were recorded by his friends and colleagues.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By "m_a_portnoi" on June 21, 2002
Format: Paperback
Testimony is 276 pages of a "shackled genius" (as Solzhenitsyn described him) being truly and 100% candid for the first time in his adult life. Compiled through interviews with the much-maligned Solomon Volkov, Shostakovich requested that they be published "after my death, after my death" for good reason.
For the more casual reader, a fabulous read; gripping, powerful, shattering. And educational, too.
For the historian or musicologist, one sees through "Testimony" the society Shostakovich and his colleagues lived in, and composed in.
For the musician, the groundwork is laid for gaining insight to Shostakovich the person, and thus the basic aspects of the composer's music: bitterness, sarcasm, satire, quotation, and a very direct, pointed language.
To consider the controversy regarding this book's "authenticity," I direct your attention to Ho & Feofanov's "Shostakovich Reconsidered," which is a truly enlightening work, both about "Testimony" and Shostakovich in general. Elizabeth Wilson's book is remarkable, too.
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