Andrey Volkonsky and the beginnings of unofficial music in the Soviet Union

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19 Scopus citations


This article examines the compositional history and early reception of Soviet composer Andrey Volkonsky's two earliest and most important serial compositions, Musica Stricta and Suite of Mirrors (Syuita zerkal). These two works spurred on the formation of an unofficial music culture in the Soviet Union during the Thaw of the late 1950s and 1960s. Volkonsky (b. 1933) was the first and initially the most visible of a group of young Soviets known by officialdom as the "young composers" ("molodïye kompozitorï"). These "young composers" - among them Sofia Gubaidulina, Alfred Schnittke, Arvo Pärt, and Edison Denisov - came of age in the years following Stalin's death in 1953. Their compositions reflected their attempts to "catch up" with the Western avant-garde following decades of musical development that had been denied them under Stalin. The first "new" technique these composers adopted was serialism, and Volkonsky's early compositions illustrate the specifically Soviet approach to the method and demonstrate the meanings it held for Soviet officials and Soviet audiences. Volkonsky's early works also force a broadening of current interpretations of postwar European and American serialism. Much of the information in the article stems from personal interviews with Volkonsky and the other leading composers and performers of the Thaw, as well as archival research conducted in Russia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)139-207
Number of pages69
JournalJournal of the American Musicological Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2005
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Music


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