Shostakovich in New York
 
for 3 actors
Jane Mardukis Newsjock
Dmitri Shostakovich Composer
Victor Rozhanski Shostakovich's Minder

by Mike Steer


MARDUKIS in bravura News style:
This is Jane Mardukis at Radio WNEW broadcasting to you at 748 meters on your dial. 748 - the place to be!
And here is all the latest & greatest news in the Big Apple this 6 o'clock Friday February 26th 1949. Brought to you by Cavalier, the exclusive Style Performance hat for Gentlemen. If you know what's best, guys, you'll know Cavalier's a cut above the rest. I always notice a man in a Cavalier hat. They're in all the latest styles & colours, midtown at Brooks Brothers, Bonwit, Jayston's & all good men's shops in the City & State of New York.
Good evening. Governor Dewey has today refused an appeal for clemency from multiple cop-slayer Thomas Arthright. Arthright has continued to insist mistaken identity, but New York Supreme Court last year upheld the death sentence after a sensational retrial in which a juror was shot & killed outside the courtroom. Arthright fries March 1st.
In the last coupl' hours President Harry Truman has again attacked the Soviet Union for its blockade of West Berlin. Vowing to defend 'the defenders of freedom' the President promised his continued assistance to the citizens of West Berlin and revealed that a record 8 thousand 25 tons of food and materials was borne to the besieged city in 9 hundred 2 flights during the 24 hours to noon today. This unprecedented tonnage carries this week's total to 44 thousand, 6 hundred, 12 tons.
Meanwhile in Moscow Soviet Dictator Stalin denounced the setting up of a new US sponsored North Atlantic Treaty Organisation to counter Russian threats in Europe. And in a separate move the Kremlin gave details of leading Soviet figures in the Arts who would be attending next month's Cultural & Scientific Conference for World Peace here in New York. They are author (she has falters momentarily) Alexander Fade-yev & Dmitri-i Sh-ostakovich, composer of the Leningrad Symphony.

SHOSTAKOVICH as if reminiscing to a friend
Well you know, Stalin had been rather deflated by the West's reaction to mine & Prokofiev's humiliation at 1948 Composers' Congress in Moscow. For some reason he thought they'd all be tossing their hats in the air now that 'the formalist snake would never rear its poisonous head again'. Well. Stalin had the lowest opinion of Western Intelligentsia, but oddly he was rather put out when they saw all this as the delirium of a purple cow. And so he decided to start a peace movement. Why not?
But of course a peace movement must have somebody in it, and somehow Stalin thought of me. That was his style completely - put a man face to face with death and then make him dance to his own tune. Altho it was a worthy cause I made every effort to refuse. It would be doubly humiliating for me to take part in such a charade. I was a 'form for form's sake' composer, a convicted saboteur of Soviet music.

So. Molotov was sent to talk to me. I told him niet. I'm ill, I can't fly. He went away.

Then the great Leader & Teacher called me in person, and in his nagging way asked me why I didn't go to America. I said "my music's banned, all my comrades' music's banned, and you want me to go to America as a leading Russian composer? What in heaven do you expect me to say?"
He pretended to be surprised. "What do you mean 'banned'? By whom? Nobody bans music in USSR." No, I thought, and nobody ever 'simply disappears' either. So Stalin started to bluster. He claimed that some official or other must have 'overreacted'. "We didn't give an order like that." "He always referred to himself in the royal plural 'We, Nicholas II' and all that.' "We'll have to straighten out the comrades in Censorship."
Now here was a real concession. If they were willing to allow mine & Prokofiev's & Miaskovsky's & Shebalin's & Khatchaturian's & Popov's music to be played again, well then, it would be worth facing the journey.

MARDUKIS in News Studio:
Good Morning. The Triboro Bridge is closed again this morning, only 4 days after it was reopened following lengthy repairs. Last night's auto wreck involving a truck & 14 cars has damaged part of the Bridge's structure, and Deputy Commissioner Roger G Peet says he wont' know until tomorrow when it'll reopen. So if you're in a car a-void the Triboro Bridge area or rent a canoe!
The so-called Peace Conference ran into more difficulties today when the National Arts Division of Americans for Democratic Action announced that more than è the academic sponsors had withdrawn their support and called it 'a Red-front operation' & 'a fraud on the American public'. This was strongly denied by the Conference Organiser Dr Howard Shapley who accused NAD-ADA of spreading deliberate lies and said that most people on the list had reaffirmed their support to him by phone. But US Secretary of Labor Maurice J Tobin addressing a separate conference sponsored by Americans for Intellectual Freedom declared that he expected 'American Labor would watch the forthcoming intellectual battle with the Reds very closely for any un-American opinions or activity by their fellow countrymen.'
Meanwhile the Catholic War Veterans Association has called for a mass picket at the Waldorf-Astoria when the Soviet delegation arrives in the Big Apple tomorrow, and Assistant Chief Inspector Frank Fristensky Jr announced that he will allow picketing right around the hotel.
From Hollywood California US Composer Igor Stravinsky said that he had declined to greet the noted Soviet Shostakovich on his arrival tomorrow. While, alighting from his plane at Berlin's Templhof Airfield last night Shostakovich at first seemed eager to talk to waiting newsmen, but after answering 2 questions abruptly walked from the room accompanied by MVD Secret Police & Army Officers claiming he was tired.

Did you know? Lejohn Vermouth makes all the difference to a Martini? Yes, it comes dry or sweet. I love it!

SHOSTAKOVICH reminiscing
So finally I agreed, I made the trip to America. It cost me a great deal that trip, I had to answer stupid questions and keep from saying too much. They made a sensation out of that too. And all I thought about the whole time was: how much longer do I have to live?
30,000 people crammed into Madison Square Gardens to hear me play scherzo from my Fifth Symphony on the piano, and all the time I was playing I could only think: this is it, this is the last time Ill play before an audience - probably the last time Ill ever play. Point!
Even now I sometimes ask myself, How did I manage to survive? Well it was the same like the films I had to do - so many shameful enterprises with music composed by me. Chekhov used to say that he wrote anything except denunciations. I too absolutely drew the line at that. But in those days everyone else wrote denunciations, composers used manuscript paper I expect and musicologists, plain. One of the people who denounced me is also my biographer. Can you believe it? You often knew who had done it too. You'd meet them at concerts and they'd be terrified because you were still at large. God. How did I survive? Why me - when so many better men were taken, silently, invisibly, in the middle of the night? One critic who was a friend of Khrennikov's wrote "I take Shostakovich's Ninth Symphony as a personal insult." Presumably it was banned out of respect for his sensibility. But was the poor man obliged to renew his feelings of personal outrage when it began to be performed once more? He kept very quiet about it if he did - but of course by then I wasn't a non-person any more.

MARDUKIS in News Studio:
... bringing the mystery over Mrs Reinberg's murder to an end. It is now known the killer escaped down the service lift from her 10th floor apartment at 277 Park Avenue before making a grisly suicide in the 23rd St subway station. His name has been given as Joseph S Sollers. Police Inspector Earl Browder said that they had evidence that the names of Mrs Reinberg, wife a vice-president of the Cerro de Pasco Copper Corporation, & her Spanish language instructor Mr Sollers had been romantically linked for some time.
And now more on the Cultural & Scientific Conference for World Peace at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. We have this report just in.
Amid incredible scenes of hostility this controversial Conference got under way this afternoon. Delegates had to endure a jeering crowd of about 1500 as Police cleared a pathway to the hotel entrance for them. At one point a scuffle broke out between Mr James A Burke, Boro President of Queens, & a group of protesters when one the latter struck Mr Burke mistakenly thinking he was entering the hotel in connection with the Conference. Mr Joseph M Calderon, chairman of the People's Committee for the Freedom of Religion, immediately apologised & subsequently led demonstrators in the Lord's Prayer.
Inside, the organiser of the conference, Harvard Professor Dr Harlow Shapley welcomed delegates and warned them that the new 'military blocs', as he called them, were bringing the world ever closer to another war. He said he believed that this was not inevitable and that as scientists & artists they had a duty to protest against this militarism.
In reply Soviet Composer Dmitri Shostakovich replied that the common enemy was Fascism. In a speech read for him by an interpreter he refuted charges of Russian aggression and insisted these were lies spread by American war-mongers. Mr Shostakovich looked forward to meeting 'the best of American intellectuals' and claimed that Soviet education had boosted the understanding of music so that even remote regions of the USSR were now benefiting from un-heard-of levels of musical culture. Repudiating US policies as 'neo-colonialism' the composer made a scathing attack on the alleged racism of America before charging famed emigréÑ Igor Stravinsky with musical nihilism and an 'absence of content' resulting from his having 'betrayed his native land by joining a clique of reactionary modernists'.
Of his own music Shostakovich said it was clear he & Sergei Prokofiev had lost contact with the public by paying too much attention to 'form for form's sake', but both were grateful to the Party's Central Committee for its criticism and he expected that neither would now suffer from a another similar 'relapse' as he put it.

The Russian was followed by our own Aaron Copland who predicted that "the present policies of the American Government will lead inevitably to a third world war." A view echoed by Broadway Playwright Lilian Hellman in a criticism of the State Department who, she said, were attempting to manipulate public opinion in a far more unscrupulous way than the Russians. This theme was continued in a speech by Group Theater Founder Clifford Odets who alleged that the current mood of what he called 'anti-communist hysteria' was 'one of the greatest frauds ever perpetrated against the American people'. He drew cheers when he called capitalism 'an apocalyptic beast running loose in our world today' and called on artists to overthrow bourgeois society everywhere.
But perhaps the most controversial speech came from Negro educator Dr W E Dubois who claimed, amid active heckling, that the United States had been 'built on the slavery, toil & degradation of Africans'.
The conference continues tomorrow.
Now did you know? You can now fly Capital Air Coach to Chicago in under 4 hours. And its just 29 dollars 60. Yes the Lockheed Prop 4 gets you from La Guardia to Midway airfield in an amazing 3 hours 35 minutes ...

SHOSTAKOVICH reminiscing
Tyrants always like to present themselves as patrons of the arts. That's a well known fact. But tyrants understand nothing about art. Tyrants are inspired by a lust for power. They are perverts. The moment that arises in you you're a lost man. I'm suspicious even of candidate for the chairmanship of a Committee.
It was only a few centuries ago they had court trials for animals, even caterpillars believe it or not. They thought they were devils, enemies of the people. The blood of animals flowed in every river. Their torturers ignored the cries & screaming of the poor creatures and brought in specialists to act as interpreters. I can imagine it all too well.
A cow is brought in. "Does the enemy of the people admit to such-&-such & so-&-so?" The cow is silent. "Guilty!" shuts the Prosecutor, "Silence is an admission of guilt." They stick a spear into its side. It trumpets an agonised moo. The specialist listens intently. "It fully admits culpability in all the acts it performed against the people." The Prosecutor looks triumphantly about him as if he had the gift of prophecy.
Silence is a sign of guilt and so is mooing. Bonfires, blood, executions. Time? The 17thC. Place? Russia, Moscow. Or was it yesterday? I don't know. Which is the beast and which the human being? I don't know that either. Everything is so confused in this world I can hardly tell which is the nightmare and which reality.
When Prokofiev wrote Semyon Kotko during the war he called in Meyerhold to direct it. Meyerhold was the most famous theatre director in Russia. Half way through the production he was taken away - Stalin had always hated him because he wasn't afraid of him - they announced that he was a saboteur. I remember it. Before he disappeared Zhdanov & some other NKVD men came into the theatre claiming to be interested in the production. But when they walked out Meyerhold knew what it meant. He followed them out of the theatre begging them to say what had upset them. He tried to cling onto their car, to run after them as they drove away, but fell full length in the slush. They neve *s men, when he was arrested they went right on with rehearsals as if he'd never existed. The name Meyerhold simply disappeared from everyone's lips. It was one of the most terrible signs of the age: a man, a close friend, a father-figure had disappeared - and not a single word was uttered, not a single tear shed. To all the people who till the day before had been hanging on his every word, desperate to be noticed, it was as if he had never existed.
Later when it was announced that Vsevolod Emilyevich had been a saboteur all along they claimed his code-name was Semyonich. I thought, how pathetic, they're too lazy even to lie properly now.
This was during the war, at the worst period. Normally, at least then we were not afraid to cry, we could talk about our lost ones and share our grief. Four whole years of being allowed to have normal emotions, however terrible things were. And then, suddenly, the war was over, it was no longer permitted to be sad. You could no longer express anything of your inner soul. The attitude was 'any more of those 'Shostakovich symphonies' and the country will fall into the slavery of American Imperialism'. But at least I still had my desk, I could compose for my desk. Perhaps they knew all the time and were just waiting to amass enough evidence ...

MARDUKIS in News Studio:
A sudden burst of spring weather has sent temperatures soaring into the 70s and many of thousands New Yorkers to the beach, and don't you love it? Coney Island report 110,000, the Rockaways 50,000 & Jones Beach 13,000. Police say traffic is heaviest on roads leading to Long Island and Connecticut and advise all drivers who have not left the city to stay at home and go play softball in the Park.
Elsewhere in the City Mayor ODwyer unsuccessfully called both sides together to avert the threatened cab strike. Afterwards he promised 2000 extra police as guards at major cab depots, but the Union said that from Friday midnight there would be no taxis on the streets of New York.
2 men, Brooklyn physician Dr Mark Straus and Ervin Wagner, a furrier, were today sentenced for an incident involving a news cameraman filming Dmitri Shostakovich outside the Madison Square Gardens. NBC newsman Vincent Johnson gave evidence that these 2 were among the pickets who assaulted him, causing serious injuries to his face and 25 hundred dollars worth of damage to the camera. Passing sentence Judge Forrest said he could quite understand that the defendants' emotions were running high as they had relatives in prison camps behind the iron curtain, and bearing this in mind he would allow a plea of disorderly conduct instead of criminal assault.
The Russians are now on their way to Philadelphia in the first stage of a tour around the country lasting 2 weeks. However a visit to Yale had to be cancelled when the University authorities refused to allow a planned concert & talk by Shostakovich to go ahead in Woolsey Hall, saying that they could see 'no educational value in such a programme'.

SHOSTAKOVICH reminiscing
People sometimes ask me if I found it interesting because of the way I'm smiling in some of the pictures. But look closely, and you'll see its the smile of a condemned man. I felt as if I was dead already. I answered all the idiotic questions in a daze, and all the while I was thinking as soon as I get back home that's it!
Stalin liked to lead Westerners by the nose that way. He would show them a man - here he is, alive & well - and then kill him. What would they do? Nothing. The famous liberal-humanist George Bernard Shaw visited Moscow at the height of the famine in the 20s, when he returned home he said "Hunger in Russia? Nonsense. I've never eaten so well anywhere." At that very time several million peasants were actually starving to death. And yet everyone was delighted by the wit and courage of George Bernard Shaw.
The moral is clear. There can be no friendship with these so-called liberals. I don't trust any of them, and I don't acknowledge their right to lecture me. All they ever want to know is what time dinner is. What use are they to us? People believe what they want, what enables them to sleep peacefully at night.
I used to be tormented by the question: Why? Why? Why were all these people lying to the entire world? Were they blind, stupid, or just dishonourable? Then I stopt caring. If these liberal-humanists don't give a damn, then they don't. I began to see that all they really cared about was their precious reputation as 'progressives'. All their fine words are no more than hot air. And yet its we who are always at fault. I'm the one who gets asked "Why did you sign this & that?" But has anyone ever asked André Malraux why he glorified the White Sea Canal, where thousand upon thousands of people perished? No, no one has. Too bad. They should. More often. After all, no one can prevent these people from answering, nothing threatened their lives then and nothing threatens them now. Of course I'm sure that if you see it from an aeroplane with plenty of vodka to drink the White Sea Canal must be a beautiful and impressive sight, very fine - at that altitude there's no trace of all the blood that has washed into it, or of bones of those who dug it with their bare hands, bent double over little wooden trowels.
Don't ask me questions, listen to the music. That's where my answers are.

MARDUKIS in News Studio:
Okay, and welcome back, that was a song from the hot ticket here on Broadway right now - Mary Martin in the latest hit musical from the pens of Rogers & Hammersteen South Pacific.
And continuing the musical tone to today's programming, we at WNEW are very privileged to have in the studio at this time the famous Soviet composer Dmitri Shostakovich and his associate Mr Victor Rozhanski.
So tell me gentlemen What do you think of the America?

ROZHANSKI
Chto vee doómayete ob Amèrike?
What do you think of America.

SHOSTAKOVICH
New York óchen bolshói no nye óchen krasevy.
New York is very big but not very beautiful.

ROZHANSKI
He finds New York big but not so beautiful.

MARDUKIS
What are you working on at present?

ROZHANSKI
Chto vee seechàss peèsheetie?
What are you composing at the moment?

SHOSTAKOVICH grunts
Kantàtu v chest nàshego sièlskogo khozayàstva i eiesóv.
A Cantata in praise of our Agriculture & Forestry.

ROZHANSKI
A Cantata in praise of Soviet Agriculture & Forestry.

MARDUKIS
Really? Do you find that sort of work very satisfying?

ROZHANSKI
Vam hràvitsa eta?.
You like it?

SHOSTAKOVICH tensely
O Bózhe! Chto na eto skazàlt? Kovièchno, Ia eto liubl'e, liubl'e!
O God. What am I supposed to say to that? Of course, I love it, love it!

ROZHANSKI
Yes.

MARDUKIS
What's your opinion of communism Mr Shostakovich?

ROZHANSKI
Chto vi doómayeto o komooneèzme?
What do you think of communism?

SHOSTAKOVICH mechanically
Eto log ’cheskaya fórma sotziàlnoy organizatziy.
It is the logical form of social organisation.

ROZHANSKI
It is the logical form of social organisation.

MARDUKIS
Are you personally a member of the party?

ROZHANSKI
Onà spràshivaet yèslee vi chlen pàrtiy. Ya za vass otvèchu.
Shes asking if youre a member of the party, Ill answer for you.

SHOSTAKOVICH
Khoroshó.
Okay.

ROZHANSKI
He says he wishes to be.

MARDUKIS
So you admire what Stalin's doing, do you?

ROZHANSKI
O yes.

MARDUKIS
Excuse me, but you didnt translate that question for Mr Shostakovich.

ROZHANSKI
T'was unnecessary to.

MARDUKIS pointedly
I see. I was talking to our own playwright Clifford Odets yesterday.
He asked if I knew why Meyerhold appears not have directed anything recently in the theatre.

ROZHANSKI
Onà govoreèt Clifford Odets khóchet znatt pochemóo Meyerhold nichegó nye stàveet Boódtye ostorozhnee!
She says Clifford Odets wants to know why Meyerhold hasnt directed anything recently. Be careful.

SHOSTAKOVICH
Meyerhold? Bózhe! Chto skazàtt? Nye znàyoo.
Meyerhold? Christ. What can I say? My mind's gone a complete blank.

ROZHANSKI with a trace of anger
Offitziàlnaya pozitziya chto on na pèntziy.
Officially he has retired.

SHOSTAKOVICH sarcastically
Noo tak i skazheète.
Well say that then.

ROZHANSKI with false bonhomie
He is in extremely good health, but he has retired now.

MARDUKIS
Where is he living now?

ROZHANSKI dismissively
Outside Moscow.

SHOSTAKOVICH
Chto on sproseèl?
What did she ask?

ROZHANSKI with asperity
Gdye Meyerhold zheeviót.
Where Meyerhold is living.

SHOSTAKOVICH
Vee shoóteetye.
Thats a joke.

ROZHANSKI softly
Ostorózhno tovàreeshtch, predooprezhdàya vas.
Careful comrade, I'm warning you.

MARDUKIS
What does he say?

ROZHANSKI, irritated but trying to sound upbeat
O, just that he saw Meyerhold recently and that he was very much enjoying his retirement in a little dacha the State has provided him with.

MARDUKJS
Thank you very much for coming into the Studio this afternoon Mr Shostakovich, and you too Mr Rozhanski.

ROZHANSKI
Thank you.

MARDUKIS
Girls, have you tried this new floor polish yet? I gotta tell you,
Whirl does for your floors than an army of maids. And in half the time. So get wise, get Whirl.

Shostakovich in America was written by Mike Steer and based on partly Shostakovich's own memoir Testimony & partly on contemporary news reports. American research was by Julia Landau, and the Russian Adviser was Oleg Prokofiev.


Go to Companion piece Shostakovich before the 1948 Composers' Congress

Google   Enter search:    all web   msteer.co.uk      |   Site by Sam Steer   |   ©2016 Maxwell Steer
<