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Important Shostakovich archives come to Bristol

Dmitri Shostakovich (left), his wife Nina (centre) and Ivan Sollertinsky (right), 1932

Dmitri Shostakovich (left), his wife Nina (centre) and Ivan Sollertinsky (right), 1932 RIA Novosti

Press release issued: 4 December 2009

A wealth of material relating to the life and work of the Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) has been acquired by the University of Bristol.

A unique archive created by the cellist Elizabeth Wilson has been acquired by the University Library’s Special Collections.  Wilson, who was a student of Mstislav Rostropovich in the Soviet Union in the 1960s, returned to Soviet Russia in the late 1980s and early 90s in order to interview Shostakovich’s friends, relatives and colleagues.

She published two books of these reminiscences: Shostakovich: A Life Remembered (Faber, 1994) and a second edition (2006) which incorporated further materials.  Her archive contains taped recordings of all these interviews, including much material that was not included in her books. 

It also contains Russian press cuttings, publications, copies of letters to and from Shostakovich and other figures, and files relating to the publication and reception of her book.

The archive of the former UK Shostakovich Society has also come to the University this year.  The Society was founded in 2004 with the aim of promoting the life and work of Shostakovich within the UK, particularly in the build-up to the centenary of his birth in 2006.

The Society’s archive, officially opened by the composer’s son Maxim Dmitrievich Shostakovich in 2006, consists of donations, notably from the late Andrew Mallows, and also acquisitions generously funded by Konrad Hopkins, which were collected from Moscow.

It includes good-quality recordings of all Shostakovich's films, a comprehensive set of CD/LP recordings, scores from the Old and New Complete Editions, and many rare, out-of-print Soviet books and scores.

Dr Lewis Owens, founder of the Society, said: “At the closure of the UK Shostakovich Society, it was decided that a suitable home was to be found to which to donate the archive.  The Department of Music at Bristol University, largely because of the important work and commitment to Russian and Soviet music studies of Dr Pauline Fairclough, is a very suitable place.  We hope the archive may be open to all and we have every confidence that the Department of Music will honour the openness and accessibility that such an archive warrants. “

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