Following recent coverage of Paavo Järvi’s new release of Shostakovich cantatas, recorded live in Tallinn in 2011, several people have commented on the fact that the original texts are not included in the booklet. The original intention was to include all the texts but they were removed before going to print on the request of the Shostkakovich Estate as they were deemed to be too sensitive to history.
“I have grouped these three of Shostakovich’s cantatas together on one disk which has never been done before – two of them are very pro-Soviet and one is very critical of the Soviet system. Through these pieces, Shostakovich’s music tells the terrifying story of that time and I think that story is only truly effective if it is honest and not modified according to the fashions and political waves of the time. People should confront this uncomfortable part of history.
“What I didn’t realise when I first began the project is that we would now be dealing with the same situation with Russia as we were after communism collapsed. Right now we are witnessing something that nobody expected which is the rise of a totalitarian regime again. So I think the biggest mistake is not to acknowledge and not to deal with the past. Changing Shostakovich’s texts does not change or erase what happened. If we ignore it, history will repeat itself again, as we are already seeing happen.
“At that particular concert in Estonia (in 2011), the house was completely packed and everybody who sat in that audience probably had a father or grandfather or uncle or aunt, or somebody close who died in Stalin’s gulags. So when they heard the texts which glorified the communists, that must have been a nightmare. I completely understand that. I was afraid and a little uncomfortable looking at the audience and the orchestra for that matter because I identify exactly what they were feeling. But it was also very important and I stand by it.”