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Mikhail Youdin
1893 - 1948
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M. Youdin
Mikhail Youdin (29/09/1893 - 08/02/1948) a Russian composer. Born in St. Peterburg, died in Kazan. He studied at Saint Petersburg Conservatory, where he began teaching in 1926, and is best remembered for his 1943 opera Farida. Youdin earned the nickname "Russian Bach" because of his career spent composing large scale ensembles, oratorios and cantatas.
Requiem in Memory of Kirov
Composed in:1935
Musical form:free
Text/libretto:quotes from Kirov and Stalin
Arseni Kotlyarevski (1910-1994) who in 1939 analyzed Mikhail Yudin’s (1893-1948) composition Requiem in Memory of Kirov (1935). It is a good example of how the ideas of Stalin era cultural theoreticians were applied in arts on one hand, and how the cultural theories were brought into Stalinist discourse on the other, all within the cultural production of Socialist Realism. Thus, I shall dwell on it a little.
Yudin, the Soviet Bach, had composed a perfectly acceptable new Soviet oratorio for children’s voices, mixed chorus, and orchestra that used direct quotes from Kirov and Stalin.
In Yudin’s Requiem, the direct imitation of religious practices in a new tendentious ideological context results in rather grotesque images. As if the whole musical work would be just a poor parody of religion or alternatively, Soviet politics: “The memory of you [Kirov] is immortal, our ardent leader, because you gave your life for the cause of the working class,” Koltyarevski writes in his essay quoting Yudin’s original text. However, grotesque was a feature of forbidden bourgeois aesthetics during the Stalin era, and an open dissidence was out of question in the context of Stalinist terror. Yudin, who is also known as the Soviet Bach, had composed a perfectly acceptable new Soviet oratorio for children’s voices, mixed chorus, and orchestra that used direct quotes from Kirov and Stalin. The peculiar rational logic loyal to the Stalinist ideology of culture by Kotlyarevski’s analysis hints that he was neither a Stalinist idiot nor a dissident, but a musician who wanted to earn his music history degree in the difficult situation of Stalin’s terror.
Kotlyarevski’s article ranks among those who tried to adapt the oratorio genre in the Soviet context and therefore he concentrated on explaining to the reader which aspects of the old tradition of oratorio by Bach and Händel were valuable for the Soviet audience. Discussing those values – the mass character and ethical value – Kotlyarevski enters the general discussion of the new Soviet humanism, which he characterizes as “the most beautiful characteristic of our epoch.” Expressing the ideas of Soviet humanism of a person who had recently been executed as a disloyal criminal, Nikolai Bukharin (1888-1938) Kotlyarevski prefers to quote Stalin instead: “...Yudin always eventuates the organic unity of individual and collective. That collective is Soviet society, which consists ‘of free hard workers of the cities and villages – workers, peasants, intellectuals’ (Stalin, ‘Conversation with Roy Howard’).”
Coming thus back to Scherrer’s presentation, she describes the juxtaposition of beauty and hatred towards the enemies of the proletariat in Gorky’s idea of a Proletarian Humanism, which he developed in a politically-turbulent European context. This dramatic juxtaposition was useful for Soviet musicians and music critics who tried to fulfill the new programmatic demands of the Socialist Realist aesthetics as critics and musicians. By demanding traditional narrative musical elements, Socialist Realism strove to take off the autonomy of music that the aesthetic theory of modernist musicology had given it via a proto-semiotic concept of intonation (intonatsiia). No words were necessary to accompany music, only a trained ear who can understand the intonational language, musicologist Boris Asafiev argued throughout the 1920s. Intonational analysis plays also part in Kotlyarevski’s essay, which claims that the songfulness of Yudin’s composition is deeply popular (narodno) and the intonational forms (obrazy) of Yudin’s composition capture everything familiar and dear to Soviet people. However, Koltryarevski’s otherwice positive analysis also criticizes Yudin’s composition for sounding too much like trauermusik. Life was dynamic and it was getting better after all. Thus, Koltyarevski talks in a good Socialist Realist fashion about the lack of dramatic conflict between the third section of the requiem which describes people’s grieving feelings by Kirov’s coffin, and the fourth section, which is called: “Death to the enemies of the working class.” Thus, it seems that we find in Koltrayevski’s article a call for a musical application of Gorky’s proletarian humanism with Buharinist content and Stalinist form. Scherrer’s article will be important in the field.