Found in Time: Forgotten Experiments in Soviet Art, 1940–1960

Thursday, October 5, 2017 to Saturday, October 7, 2017

Found in Time: Forgotten Experiments in Soviet Art, 1940–1960 
University of Chicago, October 5-7, 2017

Organized by William Nickell, Miriam Tripaldi, and Julia Vaingurt
All conference sessions are free to the public

Following a period of tremendous experimentation in the arts, in the late 1920s Soviet cultural authorities began suppressing artistic innovation with concerted attacks on those who deviated from what had become a rigid party line on the arts.  Nevertheless, formal experimentation has not been completely eradicated. Some artists pushed against the limits of Soviet and international aesthetic convention, even when it meant toiling in obscurity.

A three-day symposium will be devoted to artists who were most bold in resisting the strictures of the Soviet canon in the 1940s and 1950s. While many scholars in the West believe that artistic innovation was eradicated with the advent of Socialist Realism, we will present telling exceptions to this rule. Bold experiments continued in the face of dominant aesthetics in music, literature, and the visual arts. We will closely examine the role of formal experimentation in shaping the reception of their work in music, dance, literature and the fine arts, giving some attention to the process of canon formation and the limitations it imposes, but placing greater focus on the artists themselves. Pushkin famously imagined his creative work as the most meaningful monument to his life, but he had secured attention to that legacy before his death. Finding the cultural monuments of lesser-known artists is a more difficult task, and often requires a long period of collective searching. Our conference will offer a public report on the current results of this process.

One of the questions we will confront will be that of other circumstances, beyond those of the Soviet aesthetic regime, might have determined the fates of these artists. Sorting out aesthetic intolerance from other forms of prejudice, such as anti-Semitism,  or gender bias, requires a different frame of analysis in the Soviet case. One of the tasks of the conference will be to examine the issue of problematic difference in a society that prided itself in the promotion of equal opportunity for women and ethnic minorities.

The conference will be accompanied by a series of concerts, featuring the music of Ustvolskaya (1919-2006), one of the great discoveries of recent years. A younger contemporary of Prokofiev and Shostakovich, Ustvolskaya was a reclusive composer of iconoclastic and virtuosic classical music. Though she studied with Shostakovich in her younger years, she made a stormy break with him (following a refusal of his marriage proposal) and would later disavow his influence on her work. He, on the other hand, quoted her work in his compositions (such as in his Fifth Quartet). The loss of his patronage may have played a role in her fate, but her work was too radical to find a place in the conventional world of the Soviet art establishment. As a result, she was completely unknown outside of Russia until the fall of the Iron Curtain; recognition finally came when the Dutch musicologist Elmer Schönberger (of Sikorski publishing house) began publishing and promoting her work. Her intense music has been presented in Festivals in Europe (Amsterdam, 1995, 1996, 2005, 2011; Vienna, 1998; Bern, 1999; Warsaw, 2001; Båstad, 2004), but has still rarely been performed in Chicago, and has never before presented in a portrait festival in the United States.

Ustvolskaya's work will be thoroughly explored through score analysis, lecture, and performance of her solo, small chamber, and large chamber works. At a time of pointed discussion of the dominance of men in the new music scene, these concerts will offer the opportunity to draw inspiration and ideas from a woman who created her art against the grain of aesthetic and gender politics. One of the highlights of the concerts will be the novel instrumentation in Ustvolskaya's Composition No. 2 for 8 double bass, piano, and wooden cube; Symphony No. 4 for contralto, piano, trumpet, tam-tam; Octet for two oboes, four violins, timpani and piano; and Composition No. 3 for 4 flute, 4 bassoon, piano. We are very pleased that these works will be performed by an outstanding roster of musicians, including Amy Briggs (University of Chicago), Melissa and Eric Snoza (FifthHouse Ensemble), Shanna Gutierrez (Collect/Project), Mabel Kwan, Mark Buchner, David Kalhous, Andrew Nogal (Dal Niente), Jessica Aszodi, Ryan Packard (Fonema Consort), Karl Rzasa, Tim Munro (formerly of Eighth Blackbird), Kevin Harrison (Axiom Brass), and more.


Fulton Hall

  • 4:00 p.m. Opening Remarks: Julia Vaingurt (University of Illinois, Chicago)
  • 4:15 p.m. Panel I
    Richard Taruskin (University of California, Berkeley) – Коле посвящается (Dedicated to Kolya)
    Miriam Tripaldi (University of Chicago) – On Experimentation within Classic Forms
  • 5:45 p.m.   Video Interview with Konstantin Bagrenin – 43 years with Galina Ustvolskaya
  • 8:00 p.m. Concert I Power in Sound: The Music of Galina Ustvolskaya
  • Composition No. 1 Dona Nobis Pacem: piccolo, tuba, piano (1970/71)
  • Piano Sonata No. 3 (1952)
  • Composition No. 3 “Benedictus”: 4 flute, 4 bassoon, piano (1974/75)
  • Symphony No. 4: “Prayer”: contralto, piano, trumpet, tam-tam (1985/87)
  • Symphony NO. 5 “Amen” reciter, violin, oboe, trumpet, tuba and percussion (1989/90)
  • Performers:
     Liz Pearse, voice
     DePaul’s Ensemble 20+ led by Michael Lewanski
     Kuang-Hao- Huang, piano
     Kevin Harrison, tuba
     Shanna Gutierrez, piccolo
     Andrew Rosenblum, piano

Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts

  • 10:00 a.m. Keynote Address
    Marina Frolova-Walker (University of Cambridge) - The Outtakes
  • 11:15 a.m. Panel II 
    Lidia Ader (Rimsky-Korsakov St. Petersburg Conservatory) – A Not-Quite Soviet Hero (on Ustvolskaya, Shostakovich, and Stenka Razin)
    Simon Morrison (Princeton University) – Ustvolskaya and Reckoning
    Discussant: Seth Brodsky (University of Chicago)
  • 12:30 p.m. Break
  • 1:45 p.m. Panel III 
    Caryl Emerson (Princeton University) – Krzhizhanovsky’s Moscow Sketches (Partial Visibility during Total War)
    Anton Svynarenko (University of Illinois, Chicago) – The No-Time of War in Pavel Zaltsman’s The Puppies
    Discussant: Alisa Ballard (Ohio State University)
  • 3:00 p.m. Panel IV 
    Matthew Kendall (University of California, Berkeley) – Double Vision: Stereoscopic Cinema and Aleksandr Andrievskii’s Two Creative Lives
    Lilya Kaganovsky (University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana) – Zhenshchina s kinoapparatom / The Woman with the Movie Camera
    Discussant: Robert Bird (University of Chicago)
  • 8:00 p.m.  Concert II, Now/Then: Ustvolskaya, Khorkova and Maminova
    * Pre-concert talk by Miriam Tripaldi
    o Marina Khorkova: a_priori for flute and cello (2013) – Shanna Gutierrez, flute; Seth Parker Woods, cello
    o Trio for clarinet, violin, piano (1949) – Jeff Kimmel, clarinet; Tara Lynn Ramsey, violin; Andrew Rosenblum, piano
    o Dariya Maminova: Déjà vu (2013) – Ann Yi, Christopher Wendell Jones, piano
    o Grand Duet (1959) – Seth Parker Woods, cello; Andrew Rosenblum, piano

Franke Institute for the Humanities, in Regenstein Library, University of Chicago

  • 10:00 a.m. Panel V
    Vladimir Orlov (St. Petersburg State University) – Prokofiev and “Soviet Jazz”: the cantata Flourish Mighty Land
    Anna Katsnelson (Boston University) – 99 Red Balloons: The Whimsical Seriousness of the Soviet Aerial Fantastic
    Discussant: Colleen McQuillen (University of Illinois, Chicago)
  • 11:15 a.m. Panel VI
    Boris Gasparov (Higher School of Economics, St. Petersburg) – The Composer as Listener: Gavriil Popov and the Question of Avant-Garde subjectivity
    Olga Panteleeva  (Princeton University) – Ustvolskaya Remembered
    Discussant: Maria Cizmic (University of South Florida)
  • 12:30 p.m. Lunch and Final Discussion  
    William Nickell (University of Chicago) and Julia Vaingurt (University of Illinois, Chicago)
    Conversation:  Finding What We are Looking For
    Closing Remarks: Miriam Tripaldi (University of Chicago)
  • 3:00 p.m. Concert III:  Ustvolskaya’s Sonatas
    * Pre-concert talk by Maria Cizmic
    o Sonata No. 5 for piano (1986)
    o Sonata No. 4 for piano (1957)
    o Sonata for Violin and Piano (1952)
    o Sonata No. 2 for piano (1949)
    o Sonata No. 6 for piano (1988)
    o Performers:
         Tara Lynn Ramsey, violin
         Christopher Narloch, piano
         Kuang-Hao Huang, piano
         Andrew Rosenblum, piano
         Christopher Wendell Jones, piano

We are deeply grateful to our sponsors: the Mikhail Prokhorov Foundation, UIC SEE NEXT (University of Illinois, Chicago), and the following University of Chicago entities: Franke Institute for the Humanities,  Graduate Council, Department of Music, Center for East European and Russian/Eurasian Studies, Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, and UChicagoGRAD.

Special thanks to all who have helped: Emily Anderson, Clare Austen-Smith, Aaronson Bell, Meredith Classon, Tracy Davis, Nomi Epstein, Frank Gilbert, Peter Gillete, Shanna Gutierrez, Berthold Hoeckner, Bill Michel, Marina Mogilner, Brooke Noonan, Esther Peters, Irina Prokhorova, Greg Redenius, Summer Sparacin, Margo Strebig, and Laura Swierzbin.

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