Dmitri Shostakovich’s letters to Ivan Sollertinsky published by Wolke Verlag

Wolke Verlag has just come out with the German licensed edition of Dmitri Shostakovich's letters to his friend, the musicologist Ivan Sollertinsky. The first edition in Russian was published by Kompositor St. Petersburg in 2006. The letters were translated into German by Ursula Keller. After Sollertinsky’s death in 1944, Shostakovich dedicated his Piano Trio No. 2 in E minor, Op. 67 which he had begun in 1943, to his great friend. It had been Sollertinsky who, from his many travels, had brought back Western European composers’ scores for Shostakovich. These included works by Ernst Křenek or Kurt Weill and a copy of Gustav Mahler’s 10th Symphony, which Shostakovich studied with the greatest interest. 

“What we would have given to be flies on the wall during the conversations between Dmitri Shostakovich and Ivan Sollertinsky!” writes Dr. Bernd Feuchtner, president of the German Shostakovich Society, in the introduction to the German edition, made possible in no small measure by the German Shostakovich Society. “We may have missed this opportunity, but letters have been published in Russia that record such exchanges Shostakovich held with his best friend.” The composer valued Sollertinsky not only as a friend, but also as Russia’s most astute musicologist.  

The letter’s refrains were often: ‘I miss you very much, without you it is horribly dull.’  Or, as on October 30, 1935: ‘the only person whose friendship is as dear to me as the apple of my eye is you.’ And when letters from Sollertinsky failed to arrive, Shostakovich immediately became uneasy: “Why have I not heard a thing from you at all? This troubles me very much.” (Letter No. 69, July 22, 1934) 

That the young Shostakovich could be quite a cheeky beast is already known. But Ivan Sollertinsky was apparently in no way his second in this manner. Both were the best of their guild and knew it. As a result, they were, at times, prone to looking down on their contemporaries with a certain degree haughtiness. At any rate, neither were to shy away from dispute when it came to the truth in music. And then came sentences such as this: “Should the hunt for me begin, please don’t write anything about it, I will get through all that then, in Leningrad.” (Letter No. 38, October 19, 1931)

Dmitri Shostakovich 
Letters to Ivan Sollertinsky
edited by Dmitri Sollertinsky and Lyudmila Kovnatskaya
from the Russian by Ursula Keller
Wolke Verlag
p 251
ISBN 978-3-95593-097-4

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