Only in recent decades has it become known that the CIA covertly funded a Cold War cultural war against the Soviet Union. A frequent target was Shostakovich, portrayed as a Soviet stooge shackled by Socialist Realism. Meanwhile, JFK gave speeches insisting that the arts can only flourish in “free societies.”
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Secret Music Skirmishes of the Cold War: The Shostakovich Case
May 23 @ 7:30 pm - 10:00 pm
Looking back on the 1950s and 60s, we can see that it was Shostakovich – not Stravinsky or Schoenberg in the West – who was composing enduring masterpieces. His Preludes and Fugues for piano, inspired by Bach’s Well-Tempered Klavier, arguably mark the terminus of a keyboard canon beginning with Scarlatti and Bach.
The central anecdote: Nicolas Nabokov, heading the CIA effort, publicly humiliated Shostakovich at a 1949 press conference in New York City. Nabokov asked Shostakovich if he stood behind his denunciations of Stravinsky, Bartok, and Schoenberg. Shostakovich had to say yes.