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PERFORMING ARTS: CLASSICAL MUSIC, DANCE, OPERA : A Celebration of Shostakovich : A longtime devotee of the Soviet composer mounts a wide-ranging tribute at Cal State Long Beach.

February 11, 1996|Daniel Cariaga | Daniel Cariaga is The Times' music writer

Noting the 90th anniversary-year of Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975), Julien Musafia has again mounted a celebration of the Soviet composer's music at California State University, Long Beach. In 1996, however, there are new wrinkles in a two-day gathering masterminded by the Cal State professor emeritus.

Shostakovich's widow, Irina Supinskaya Shostakovich, who has never before visited the West Coast--and was last in the United States more than two decades ago--will attend the brief festival, scheduled Saturday and next Sunday, participating in a discussion of the composer's life and work.

And fulfilling the scholarly aims of the weekend meeting, which is co-sponsored by the Cal State Long Beach Department of Music and the American Musicological Society, a second lecture discussion will center around Malcolm Hamrick Brown, a Shostakovich scholar and professor at Indiana University in Bloomington, on Saturday afternoon.

Brown has chosen the title "Shostakovich Expropriated and Exploited" for his lecture, and insists that it is not controversial, but merely "a review of the history of Shostakovich's music" in the Soviet context and a look at "the newest additions to Shostakovich studies."

The weekend's events culminate next Sunday afternoon with a wide-ranging but compressed survey of Shostakovich's music, to be played by Russian soprano Galina Pisarenko, Ukrainian violinist Oleh Krysa, German cellist Julius Berger and pianists Musafia and Richard Carpenter--the pop musician and Cal State Long Beach alumnus whose name, with his late sister's, is on the 2-year-old, 1,162-seat Carpenter Performing Arts Center, where the festival will be held.

Shostakovich, the preeminent 20th century composer considered by some the greatest symphonic writer of our time, has been celebrated at Cal State Long Beach before: Musafia first played his Second Piano Concerto--in its second performance anywhere, according to Musafia--with the late Henri Temianka conducting the University Orchestra, back in 1964.

After that, Musafia--who taught on the Long Beach campus from 1959 until his retirement in 1994--regularly brought music both rare and familiar by the Soviet composer to the attention of Southern California.

His first large project was introducing to local audiences the 24 Preludes and Fugues for piano, Opus 87. That was in 1968, when the Preludes and Fugues were virtually unknown here. Today, they are commonplace.

In 1969, shortly after collaborating with soprano Galina Vishnevskaya and her husband, cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, in a Shostakovich program in New York City, Musafia served as impresario-performer in a three-day Shostakovich-fest at Long Beach. Then he organized a 6 1/2-hour Shostakovich memorial concert there in 1976, an event at which he says he introduced supertitles--song texts projected above the proscenium--to the musical world.

Since then, he has participated in a number of international concerts devoted to Shostakovich's music, most recently at European festivals in the past two years.

Musafia first met the composer's widow (and third wife; they married in 1962) at a meeting of the Composers Union in Moscow in 1994. Subsequently, Musafia has visited with her both in Russia and in Germany. Recently, she sent the composer's orchestrations of eight American and English songs (in Russian) to Musafia, for inclusion on the activities this coming weekend.

As he has done before, Musafia has put together works from the full historical range of Shostakovich compositions--music from all his periods. This program will include the "recently reassembled," Musafia says, Trio No. 1, which the composer wrote at the age of 17; the Cello Sonata, Opus 40; the Concertino for Two Pianos, Opus 94--Musafia calls his partner in this, Richard Carpenter, a "dynamic pianist"--and the Seven Romances on the Words of Alexander Blok, Opus 127.

"Paralleling Beethoven," Musafia says, "Shostakovich is characterized by the brooding introspection of his last period."

Chronological programming with Shostakovich is justified, says Musafia, because "his evolution as a composer came about through always building on the past. In this, he was like [Richard] Wagner, whose every work, though individual and unique, refers to what came before."

In the light of Solomon Volkov's editing of the composer's memoirs, "Testimony," which was published four years after Shostakovich's death, a book that Musafia describes as "discredited" and Brown calls "tainted," one has to raise the questions of politics and revisionism.

But Musafia insists that an artist has to be viewed "only through his art," and Shostakovich's "political battles were fought by the composer not with words, but with music." Furthermore, "his compositions are affirmations. As the composer commented in regard to the Symphony No. 14: 'This work is for the glory of life.' "

Irina Shostakovich, too, speaking through an interpreter on the phone from Moscow, spoke adamantly against any political interpretations of her husband's works. Asked if she wishes to revise Shostakovich's reputation, and if he is today misunderstood, she answered: "His reputation is high enough. And he was never misunderstood in Russia. No, he doesn't need revising."


SHOSTAKOVICH FESTIVAL, Richard and Karen Carpenter Center, Cal State Long Beach, 6200 Atherton St. Lectures: Malcolm Hamrick Brown, Saturday, 3 p.m.; "Remembering Shostakovich" with Irina Shostakovich, next Sun., 2:30 p.m., in Daniel Recital Hall; free. Concert: Feb. 18 at 4 p.m. in Carpenter Center. Prices: $25, $45, $75. Phone: (310) 985-7000.

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