an emotional and personal letter in which he reports the reaction of Lev Oborin and composers in Moscow to his Octet Op.11, and his consequent feelings of dissatisfaction and loneliness in his country retreat at Slavyansk in the Ukraine; Shostakovich reports the supposed influence of Stravinsky on the 'Scherzo' movement from the Octet, urges his friend to send him the score of the 'Prelude', so that he can work on it, expresses his depression following the recent death of his best friend Volodya Kurchavov, and asking him to tell his mother that he hopes to be able to send her about seventy roubles soon
4 pages, 4to, closely written, light buff ruled paper from a note-book, Slavyansk, 7 August 1925, horizontal crease at fold
...One friend has died and the other has expressed his wish to cease to be my friend. As a result I am on my own. Apart from yourself and Volodya I had no friends. And I don’t think I will have any... Starokadomsky saw the influence of Stravinsky in my scherzo. Kvadri was hostile (towards the music), he understood nothing and Levushka [Oborin] simply said that he didn’t understand it. You can congratulate me. I finished the scherzo [Op.11] two days ago. If it’s not too difficult for you, could you do the following for me. Go to my place (Flat 7, 9 Marata Street), find the octet prelude on my desk and take it […] You will find some manuscript paper, take it. Attach all this to your score and send it [to me]. I need the prelude so I can make a fair copy...[translation]”
Shostakovich expresses his sense of professional and personal isolation, apparently unable to disentangle one from the other. He composed the Octet Op.11 (comprising a 'Prelude' and 'Scherzo'), in memory of his close friend Volodya I. Kurchavov, who died in June 1925. He began the 'Scherzo' movement at Oranienbaum (west of Leningrad) in July but then travelled to Slavyansk, south-east of Kharkhov, where he completed it on 4 August. On 29 or 30 July, he stopped en route in Moscow, where he met the prominent musicians and composers Lev Oborin (1907-1974), Kvadri and Starokadomsky. The group evidently played their recent pieces to each other, which elicited the negative comments reported above. Shostakovich comments sourly, "It is a consolation for small people who want but cannot be great. So they mock everything that they can’t do. At least I’ve noticed that about myself...[translation]"
The letter was written just after Shostakovich completed the First Symphony in June 1925, but before its premiere under Malko the following year.
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