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Chapter 23 - Music

from Part III - Literature, the Arts, and Intellectual Life

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 January 2023

Anna A. Berman
Affiliation:
University of Cambridge
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Summary

Tolstoy’s meetings with Russian composers tended to be debacles, for reasons that are easy enough to imagine. The author, after all, was not given to tempering his remarks on topics likely to vex his interlocutors – and for contemporary composers such as Tchaikovsky, Musorgsky, and Rimsky-Korsakov, Tolstoy’s views on art, its purposes, and its ethical responsibilities were decidedly among those vexing topics. Indeed, Tolstoy imagined that music above all the arts posed a special moral-aesthetic danger, as Caryl Emerson, Stephen Halliwell, and others have explained. But whatever their misgivings about Tolstoy the man, composers’ regard for Tolstoy the artist was much less equivocal. Tchaikovsky saw in Tolstoy an eminently “musical” writer whose gifts of simplicity, social observation, and psychological sensitivity were highly sympathetic to his own. Musorgsky, meanwhile, imbued his operas Boris Godunov and Khovanshchina with a vision of history that largely harmonized with the historical philosophy Tolstoy expounded in War and Peace. This chapter explores the connections between Tolstoy’s fiction and contemporaneous Russian music. I focus, in particular, on opera: an art form Tolstoy loathed, but which – as composed by Tchaikovsky, Musorgsky, and other Russians of the era – nonetheless abounded in Tolstoyan resonances.

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Tolstoy in Context , pp. 187 - 193
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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  • Music
  • Edited by Anna A. Berman, University of Cambridge
  • Book: Tolstoy in Context
  • Online publication: 05 January 2023
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108782876.028
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  • Music
  • Edited by Anna A. Berman, University of Cambridge
  • Book: Tolstoy in Context
  • Online publication: 05 January 2023
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108782876.028
Available formats
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To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Music
  • Edited by Anna A. Berman, University of Cambridge
  • Book: Tolstoy in Context
  • Online publication: 05 January 2023
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108782876.028
Available formats
×