Shostakovich & Stalin

"When Dmitri Shostakovich answered his phone one day in March 1949 he was told to hold on: Comrade Stalin wanted to speak to him. Stalin expressed surprise that the composer had declined an invitation to go to New York for a cultural conference for peace. Shostakovich said that he was 'nauseated'. Stalin affected to believe that he was unwell and said he should see a doctor. But the nausea he had experienced was because none of his music and that of his colleagues Sergei Prokofiev and Aram Khatchaturian had been performed in the Soviet Union for more than a year.

"Silence over the phone: at one end the tyrant, at the other the artist. The tyrant yielded. He said he was not aware that the composers had been censored and he would 'have to correct the comrades' who had given the illegal order. Next day the luckless censors were punished. Shostakovich went to New York."

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