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Shostakovich - The Luminous Centre of Truth

After I'd finished a long and productive day I decided to listen to another Shostakovich Quartet with score. They are such intensely wrought pieces: fiendishly hard but perfectly conceived for the medium–a world of lyricism and energy within extremely coherent structures. This one was written in 1946 (my birth year) no doubt in conditions of the utmost privation after WW2, yet there is no surrender anywhere to the banal.

I feel in it the extraordinary, archetypal power of Russian traditions which have survived or outlasted all the tyrants of their long and savage history. Only this week, the all-powerful and corrupt, but efficient, Mayor of Moscow, Sergei Luzhkov, has been given the boot by Putin's gang. It is a Kremlin appointment. It has been said for years that nothing gets built without the involvement of his wife, Irina, whose fortune is close to $3bn. Yet there still persists an 'innergy' within the Russian collective awareness, as I saw when attending Eucharist at St Nicholas, Khamnoviki in Moscow two years ago, that defies the depredations of the wicked and greedy.

A recent film about the Vatican showed how many genuinely devout and unspectacular Italians are beneath their flagrantly corrupt leaders ... ditto the Russians. And a recent documentary about shape note or sacred harp singing in the US South showed the continuity of world infinitely removed from the global machinations of Washington. Yet it seems that the 'faith-full' in preferring their private rewards and estuary in The World release it to be the plaything of spivs and crooks.

This is a long way from Shostakovich, and yet he is the perfect example of the apolitical artist who stands in the luminous centre of cultural truth and hands it on to truth-seeking successors.

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