Benjamin Britten and Russia

August 2016
27 black and white, 30 line illustrations
383 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
Aldeburgh Studies in Music
Library eBook
Boydell Press

Benjamin Britten and Russia

Cameron Pyke

eBook for Handhelds
Explores Benjamin Britten's deeply-felt cultural affinity with Russia and influences on the 'Russian' Britten.
This book explores Benjamin Britten's creative relationship with Russia throughout his life by examining his engagement with Russian composers, musicians and writers in the context of twentieth-century politics. The remarkable relationship between Britten and Shostakovich is a central theme, but it also evaluates other key influences, particularly Britten's passion for Tchaikovsky, his more elusive fascination with Prokofiev, and his ambiguous attitude towards Stravinsky; and it places Britten's enduring friendships with Rostropovich, Vishnevskaya and Richter in the context of his musical output. The book also analyses Britten's responses to various Russian composers and musicians - why, for example, did he dislike Musorgsky? - and considers personal and political perceptions of Britten in the Soviet Union. Finally, it assesses the wider question of Russian influence on Britten's works and in turn whether Britten's music had any influence on the younger generation of Russian composers, such as Alfred Schnittke. This study draws on Foreign Office and British Council files at the National Archives, published and unpublished material from the former Soviet Union, including the Shostakovich Family Archive, and oral history, in addition to the Britten-related archives. Benjamin Britten and Russia will appeal not only to Britten scholars and students but also to those interested in twentieth-century culture, history and politics more widely.

CAMERON PYKE is Deputy Master (External) at Dulwich College and part-time lecturer at the Centre of Russian Music, Goldsmiths, University of London.

Table of Contents

Earliest and lifelong Russophilia
Britten and Shostakovich, 1934-63
Britten and Prokofiev
Britten and Stravinsky
Hospitality and politics
Pushkin and performance
Dialogues of war and Death, 1963-76
Final assessment
Appendix I: Letter from Lord Armstrong of Ilminster, 16 May 2010
Appendix II: Interview with Alan Brooke Turner CMG [1926-2013], London, 24 September 2009
Appendix III: Interview with Keith Grant, London, 25 September 2009
Appendix IV: Interview with George, Earl of Harewood [1923-2011], Harewood House, Leeds, 13 March 2009
Appendix V: Interview with Lilian Hochhauser, London, 24 November 2011
Appendix VI: Interview with Victor Hochhauser CBE, London, 4 November 2009
Appendix VII: Letter from Sir Charles Mackerras CH [1925-2010], 26 January 2010
Appendix VIII: Interview with Dr. Donald Mitchell CBE, London, 11 August 2008
Appendix IX: Interview with Sir John Morgan KCMG [1929-2012], London, 16 March 2012
Appendix X: Interview with Gennady Rozhdestvensky, 4 December 2014
Appendix XI: Interview with Irina Antonovna Shostakovich, Shostakovich Centre, Paris, 31 March 2009
Appendix XII: Letter from Boris Tishchenko [1939-2010], 21 May 2008
Appendix XIII: Interview with Oleg Vinogradov, 8 September 2010
Appendix XIV: Interview with Galina Vishnevskaya, Galina Vishnevskaya Opera Centre, Moscow, 11 June 2010
Appendix XV: Letters from Dmitri Smirnov [b. 1948] and Elena Firsova [b. 1950], 13 January 2015
Appendix XVI: Letter from Vladislav Chernushenko, 22 April 2015
Appendix XVII: Britten's volumes of Tchaikovsky: Complete Collected Works


The book is fascinating for its insights into politics as much as into musical matters including the Russians' influence on Britten and he on the Russians. AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE

Pyke delivers on his promise to bring together the different strands of Britten's lifelong engagement with Russia. . . . Scholars, performers, and interested laypersons will find [this book] an engaging, informative, and well-documented resource. MUSIC LIBRARY ASSOCIATION NOTES

The fascinating, multi-layered story of Britten's lifelong involvement with brilliantly told in Cameron Pyke's authoritative and exhaustively detailed book. GRAMOPHONE

It's unlikely that this ground will be covered again by writers also alive during (at least a part of) the time about which they're writing. Even less likely that anyone could do so as compellingly, convincingly and comprehensively as Cameron Pyke has done. [This] is a book that cannot be recommended too highly for anyone interested in, really, the widest areas of twentieth-century music as well as Britten and his Russian counterparts detailed with such suave and careful attention and at the same time in such an accessible manner. On completing the book, you're likely to have been reminded of just how much ground has been covered, and how well -- so important and influential are its subjects. CLASSICALNET.NET

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