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The Zhdanov Decree on WHRB

If I didn't have other plans for today, I might simply have sat all day listening to music. I haven't done anything of the sort in years, so maybe I'm due. WHRB had a fantastic program combining detailed and researched historical reports with fantastic Soviet music.

I did not want to leave my truck to go play Boggle, so fantastic was the music I was listening to (Shostakovich's Leningrad Symphony). The ride home was accompanied by Kachaturian's most interesting Symphony-Poem and the beginning of Prokofiev's Sixth Symphony. I now need to go buy new CDs for my collection...if only I had the money.

Short of listening, nothing captures the depth and breadth of this program better than the schedule listed on WHRB's website.


On February 10, 1948, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union issued a decree condemning "formalism" in music. This decree was the final stage in a process that had begun with the costly and unsuccessful staging of Vano Muradeli’s opera The Great Friendship in late 1947, written in commemoration of the 30th Anniversary of the Revolution. The Decree, orchestrated and written by Central Committee member Andrei Zhdanov and widely referred to simply as the Zhdanov Decree, was the most significant and influential interference by the Soviet government in the field of music. In the months following the Decree, many of the Soviet Union’s most distinguished composers, men such as Dmitri Shostakovich, Sergei Prokofiev, Aram Khachaturian, and Nikolai Myaskovsky, were fired from their posts and disgraced, being told that their music, previously hailed as the greatest in the world, was anti-Soviet, anti-People, and not worth the paper it had been written on. This Orgy will focus on the music surrounding the Decree and hear the effect of the Decree on Soviet music. We will listen to the music preceding and following the Decree, both famous pieces and pieces probably never before broadcast over the radio outside of the Soviet Union, and speak with scholars who have written about the Decree in an attempt to understand the political impact on the music we often take for granted.

An Early Foray Into Musical Control

Shostakovich: Selections from Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District; Vishnevskaya, Gedda, Petkov, Rostropovich, Ambrosian Opera Chorus, London Philharmonic Orchestra (EMI)

Shostakovich: Fragments from the music to The Maxim Trilogy, Op. 50a; Sinaisky, Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus, BBC Philharmonic Orchestra (Chandos)

Glorification of Soviet Music

Shostakovich: Symphony No. 7 in C, Op. 60, "Leningrad"; Mravinsky, Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra (Omega Classics)

Khachaturian: Violin Concerto in d; Oistrakh, Khachaturian, National Philharmonic Orchestra (Bruno LP)

Responses to the War

Prokofiev: Piano Sonata No. 9, Op. 103; Richter (Memoria)

Prokofiev: Ode to the End of the War, Op. 105; Rozhdestvensky, USSR Ministry of Culture Symphony Orchestra (Melodiya)

Shostakovich: Symphony No. 9, Op. 70; Gauk, State Radio Orchestra of the USSR (Monitor LP)

Myaskovsky: Symphony No. 25, Op. 69; Svetlanov, Russian Federation Academic Symphony Orchestra (Olympia)

Commemoration of the 30th Anniversary of the Revolution

Prokofiev: Flourish Mighty Land, Op. 114; Rozhdestvensky, USSR Ministry of Culture Chamber Choir, USSR Ministry of Culture Symphony Orchestra (Melodiya)

Khachaturian: Symphony-Poem; Stokowski, Chicago Symphony Orchestra (RCA LP)

Prokofiev: Symphony No. 6 in e-flat, Op. 111; Mravinsky, Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra (Urania)

The Decree: Immediate Causes and Music of Participants

Muradeli: Selections from The Great Friendship; Soloists, Zhemchuzhin, Moscow Radio Choir and Orchestra (Melodiya LP)

Knipper: Symphony No. 4 in D, Op. 41; Elnikov, Polyakov, Ptistsa, All-Union Radio Chorus and Symphony Orchestra (Melodiya LP)

Khrennikov: Symphony no. 2, Op. 9; Svetlanov, USSR State Academy Orchestra (Melodiya)

Shaporin: The Flea, Op. 8; Fedoseyev, Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra and Folk Instruments Group (Melodiya LP)

Shaporin: Selections from The Decembrists; Melik-Pashayev, soloists, Chorus, and Orchestra of the Bolshoi Theater (Ultraphone LP)

Responses to the Decree

Shostakovich: Song of the Forests, Op. 81; Ivanovsky, Petrov, Yurlov, Moscow State Boys Choir, Moscow Phlharmonic Symphony Orchestra (Melodiya)

Prokofiev: On Guard for Peace; Arkhipova, Mironov, Maksakova, Mishkin, Rozhdestvensky, Boys Chorus of the Moscow Choral School, Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra and Chorus (Melodiya LP)

Myaskovsky: String Quartet No. 13; Gosteleradio Quartet (Melodiya)

Prokofiev: Selections from The Story of a Real Man; Deomidova, Kibkalo, Pankov, Eizen, Ermler, Chorus and Orchestra of the Bolshoi Theater (Chandos)

Prokofiev: Letter to Zakharov; Yakovenko, Scheps (Chant du Monde)

Shostakovich: Rayok; Yakovenka, Scheps, Poliansky, Choir of the State Symphonic Capella (Chant du Monde)

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