In this section, we present the commentaries of Konstantin Bagrenin (Galina Ustvolskaya's husband of 43 years) on the various statements made by those researching Ustvolskaya's life and work.


Bar lines in the score of Symphony No 1

Ustvolskaya's heir regretfully states that Sikorski Verlag did not correct a major mistake in the score of her Symphony No. 1, the same mistake existed in the Soviet edition. It concerns the bar lines, the absence of which in the score of the symphony was very important to the composer. Ustvolskaya drew Sikorski's attention to this fact already in 1985, but the publisher decided to release the score as a reprint of the Soviet edition (with correction of minor mistakes pointed out by the author), and this was not done until the late 2010s.

* * *

The statement by the heir of Galina Ustvolskaya regarding the use of her music in various stage performances and musical theater (2020)

The modern world is changing very quickly and new types of creativity are emerging. Therefore, I have to agree to the use of Galina Ustvolskaya's music in stage performances. However, I will always object if her music is used with unnecessary exaltation and without due respect for her heritage, as was the case with naked artists in Shirokuro's project.

* * *

Once again about "Shostakovich's pupil

In September 1939, Ustvolskaya entered Shostakovich's class. In the first and second year, she took her first steps as a composer,and but she did not succeed in many things. Her talent manifested itself by the summer of 1941. But when the war came, Shostakovich abandoned his students, and Ustvolskaya's studies ceased. After the war, Shostakovich moved to Moscow, and Ustvolskaya was passed to M. O. Steinberg. She studied in his class for more than two years and later said that he gave her a lot. It wasAlready by the summer of 1945, she had gained complete independence and brought the ready-made compositions to her lessons. Maximilian Oseevich died on December 6, 1946, and until the final exams in October 1947, Galina Ivanovna was listed in the class of D. D. Shostakovich, who had to help his teacher's students to finish their studies. Subsequently, Ustvolskaya repeated many times that Shostakovich did not study with her at all. She came to class, played her compositions, while Shostakovich went out to smoke; when he returned, he said: “Well, dear, see you next time”. During the general lessons, Galina sat and listened to how Shostakovich studied with other students. She studied orchestration herself with Charles-Marie Widor's manual. The phrase “Shostakovich's pupil”, which is still used to this day, was very offensive to her, primarily because, in fact, she was not his pupil.

* * *

Reciters in Symphonies Nos. 2, 3 and 5 of Ustvolskaya

Symphonies No. 2, 3 and 5 of Ustvolskaya were created for a male reciter. Some conductors ignore the composer's instructions and appoint women to this role, as if paying tribute to their growing role in society. Ustvolskaya knew exactly what she wanted, so the heir protests against such a distortion of the author’s intention.

* * *

How Shostakovich defended Ustvolskaya

Sikorski Verlag writes: "Dmitri Shostakovich, was enthusiastic over her. He repeatedly stood up for her against the resistance of his colleagues in the Composers’ Union".

Ustvolskaya claimed the opposite: Shostakovich never defended her, even on the street. At one point, Ustvolskaya was about to be excluded from the Conservatory when, at the Academic Council, she was defended by one person who even took responsibility for her informal attitude. That was Maximilian Oseevich Steinberg. Shostakovich, during discussion of this issue, went out into the corridor to smoke, and for this Steinberg was very upset with him. There is no written evidence that could prove that Shostakovich defended Ustvolskaya. It was rather the opposite indeed. For example in 1959 Shostakovich from tribune of one of the composers' plenums tried to defend her Poem No. 1, which was declared by many speakers as an ideological failure, but at the same time he agreed with his colleagues that this work "expresses the wonderful [Soviet] contemporaneity [...] with imperfect musical means". Shostakovich at this moment was a powerful figure, and could have insisted that Ustvolskaya was a very talented composer at least worthy of being left alone, but obviously this did not happen: in the plenum's resolution the Poem was condemned, although there were 150 other works, many of which obviously were very weak. Why did this happen? The answer is clear: Shostakovich stood up for the Soviet values while Ustvolskaya despised them, so he could not really defend her.

* * *

Glissando in Symphony No 3

The heir of Ustvolskaya regretfully states that the score of her Symphony No. 3, published by Sikorski Verlag, has the same blunder that was in the Soviet edition: the piano glissando in the 88th bar. You can hear it here. Ustvolskaya crossed out the glissando in the Sikorski edition and asked Viktor Suslin to take this into account in future editions, but for some reason this did not happen.

* * *

Stresses in Concerto

Many performers of Ustvolskaya's Concerto do not pay attention to the stresses in the first bars of the score, and transfer them from the first beat to the upbeat (this concerns both the soloist and the orchestra). These stresses can be seen throughout the Concerto's score. They especially need to be reckoned in the piano part, starting from the number 23 in the score. The author repeatedly emphasized the importance of these stresses.
Also to note: Concerto is written for full string orchestra. See below for more details regarding this piece.

* * *

The Lady with the Hammer

Galina Ustvolskaya is persistently called "The Lady with the Hammer" because of the Dutch composer and musicologist Elmer Schönberger, who introduced this image in the 1990s. Ustvolskaya was against it, because this image doesn't reflect the core of her creativity. The fact that it well serves advertising purposes was not at all interesting to her.

* * *

On the book by Bokman

In 2007 the publishing house Ernst Kuhn published a book in English by Semyon Bokman titled “Variations on a Theme: Galina Ustvolskaya”. After reading the original Russian text, the heir and husband of the composer, Konstantin Bagrenin, wrote a protest letter to the author. The text of this letter with the small editorial changes is given below. It is followed by memories of Semyon's colleagues in the College.

* * *

Dear Senya!

In 2009, in Germany a book was published titled “Galina Ustvolskaya – compiler U. Tadday”. There were references in it to your book, published in 2007. Congratulations! You acted very wisely, publishing the book about the alleged Ustvolskaya after her death. If you wrote a book in 2003, when G.U. kissed you in your dream on the lips, and in 2004 (for example) she started to read it, she would have died instantly, not having read the book till the end. And so she lived 2 years more. Thank God! And Glory to you!
Your book was written for the Anglophones in America and Europe. You camouflaged yourself with the English language. Conveniently. How it should be interesting to these readers to read about known in America and Europe Pozhlakov, Kolker, Pakhmutova, whose songs some unknown Ustvolskaya sang on her balcony with a cigarette in her mouth and two bottles of vodka in her hands. Terrific! This is the same as if you had written that a Great Artist before breakfast sits first on the potty. Very interesting!
It would seem that youth experience should also “grow up and serious” and leave the most interesting impressions about the music of the composer. But it is not so! Have some snot of an 18-year-old talent. Terrific! You, dear, mixed Ustvolskaya with Rozova*.

Some students of G.U. who are still alive, and who knew her much better than you might think, could recall the more interesting episodes from the life of G.U., which they have witnessed. You were young then, naive, people laughed at you (the meeting with Banevitch clearly says about it. He is a well-known "joker"). And you really thought that G.U. considered you were talented. A FEW of her disciples she considered talented. Coming home, she was saying: “Again hacks recruited”. It's about you, too. While being retired for a long time, G.U. sometimes recalled Shibanov, Novikov, Lomizov, others. But you – never.
She asked: “Why is X so popular? He's thick as a plank”. But even X, knowing THAT G.U., did not dare to lay hands on her with such “memories”.
Meeting, seeing off, arriving, going to the army. Giving a black shirt**. Is it interesting to anyone but you, I wonder? We had DIFFERENT relationships with G.U. So what? Should it be written about too as a black shirt or a jacket?
She allowed people to call her “Galia” not because they were close to her, but because she was a woman, however you put it. So everyone called her that way; Soloviev-Sedoi and D.D. and Banevitch and a janitor and Bokman. But these people were not close to her. Not at all. Simply, it was SHE. I WANT IT! You live that naive prescription and, apparently, not quite realize that she was a GREAT human being who had the right to be surrounded by Vasya, Sasha, Mitya, Syoma as it pleases HER. You were so talented that G.U. was fighting for you when you were to be excluded. I remember the story. And it was not just you she wanted to “save”. She wanted to “save” herself in the first place. If the class is filled completely, she gets 170 roubles, and if even one is expelled – 135 roubles. And she, like other teachers, was fighting for her salary, and not for what your talent.
I remember a case when G.U. came home and said: “Lord! Again a handful of hacks! The only talented girl is Olya Virs, but she will never be a composer”. And so it happened. Olga Gladkova graduated from college as a composer, and entered the musicology faculty at the Conservatory. She very highly valued Sasha Lomizov (pianist), but said he would not be able to reach the heights. It happened. And she valued Shibanov, but said that he won’t find his “harmony”. She said about Banevitch that he is “an empty shell”. And he is. About you – nothing. She forgot about you.
It does not take a great deal of wisdom to realize that if G.U. did not recognize D.D., did not consider talented her famous students, then she could not consider Semyon Bokman outstanding. It turns out that Semyon Bokman finds himself outstanding and his book of “wonderful” memories was written about HIMSELF, and G.U. serves as an additional element, because she lived in a time when he studied music. However, sometimes you (alone or with Solomon) are talking about GREAT music (I wish there were more of it instead of seeing off to taxis and other stuff). But it’s nothing, buried under nonsense. The main thing is that you evolved from accordionist to an important composer, and that G.U. promoted it at the beginning by standing on a balcony in a black shirt. By the way, we lived on Blagodatnaya street, 34 apt. 217. Also with a balcony. And in 1968 we moved to Gagarin Prospekt.

You write that G.U. sent you letters and telegrams. But it's a small lie, since all this was written at the request and under the pressure of “Firdman”***. I was witness to this repeatedly. G.U. only reluctantly signed up. One letter was written by a "stranger’s" hand. Right. This I wrote at the request of G.U., who promised to Sasha that she would write to you and at the same time said: “How do I tire of this Bokman. And Sasha asks me sign all the time”. That's all, end of “co-authoring”. A couple of telegrams were sent by me. Sasha asked. G.U. did not write to D.D., and began to write to Bokman. Terrific! Even some application for the graduate school was written for her by D.D. G.U. wrote herself, without prompting, without pressure to Shibanov, to Reinbert de Leeuw, to Suslin, to me (when I was leaving). This “hand” is preserved. And what about your “hand”? Do you have a page filled by G.U.’s hand? The only composer in the world (Victor Suslin), in addition to many letters, has a paper, which he hung over his desk before his eyes, it’s a hand-written note by G.U. – “I bless you. Galya”. Dear Senya! Have you received such a thing? You took on the burdens beyond your strength. “This hat is not for a small head.” How happy should you be to see G.U. in a dream. She asks you: “Do not write about me. Do not write”. And you answer: “And I will!” It reminded me of a case when the drunken Tishchenko phoned G.U. and said that he will play her Sonata for piano; G.I. begged him not to play her music in concerts, the drunken Tishchenko yelled into the phone: “And I will!”. Then, for a long time, insulted her, and then I had to call an ambulance to safely put G.U. in a hospital. Good colleagues!

I'm not as talented as you, but I want the memory of Galina Ustvolskaya to be pure, as pure as she and her music was and IS.

Konstantin Bagrenin.
November 5, 2009, St. Petersburg

* Rozova – a teacher in the College in the same period.
** Bokman tells about a black shirt he lent to Aleksandr Fridman (Sanin), another student in the College, a friend of his, who used to come to the G.U.’s home for some time.
*** "Firdman" is the way Bagrenin called Fridman.

* * *

Irina Vakulenko, who studied under Galina Ivanovna with Semyon Bokman, believes that “his memories, including his personal creative achievements in the classroom, should be used with caution. G.I. in communicating with students has always been exceptionally friendly and showed genuine interest in each person and that always inspired us; and even then, many of us, young people, understood that such special attention of G.I. meant no privilege towards anyone. In some stories Semyon is too subjective, and perhaps time erodes memory? We saw Semyon only a few times, he was studying sometime before us, then there was a break, maybe he went to the army? And then he visited classes and once showed a small fragment of his work with text, the usual educational work. I helped him to sing the vocal part, but after that I never met him, he did not take tests and exams with us, although part-time students sat for the composition and other subjects with the full-time students, Semyon somehow disappeared ... that's the extent of Semyon going “through thick and thin”.”

Vyacheslav Rimsha whom G.I. strongly advised to go to the Composition Department at the College (as it was with I. Vakulenko) remembers Semyon vaguely: “We did not communicate at all; he was a musicologist and studied weakly. What do you mean he became a composer? Where did he graduate from? The Leningrad Conservatory was closed for him. And he was not given a recommendation.

* * *

The book is reviewed in a number of publications, including Music & Letters Volume 89, N° 4. The reviewer, David Fanning, says that “typos are abundant, and footnotes and bibliography barely adequate”. Fanning also talks about how valuable it is to have even such “a loose assemblage of snapshots” of a mysterious figure of G.U., about which little is known. Indeed, for the Ustvolskaya’s scholars this book seems to be a striking and rare find. But the rare snapshots are far from being framed in the best way: the book is self-centered, didactic and saturated wih the New Age, post-modern "spirituality" – Ustvolskaya has nothing to do with it. Such presentation calls into question the credibility of the memories themselves. Fanning writes: “Bokman hears her music as 'a requiem to the dying world', which is as good a motto as any, but his gloss is naive (or candid, according to taste) and as marked by the clichés of Soviet musicography as are most of his ill-judged excursions into music-historical comparison: 'She sharply feels the presence of destructive powers in the world, in life, and in space. This frightens and depresses her. Music helps her to free herself from these tribulations, eases the sufferings caused by the absence of harmony in the world'”. Both the form and the contents of the book create a striking contrast with the topic about which Bokman writes – the extremely precise, *strong* and PURE music of G.U. Obviously, she would not be pleased with the quality of such memoirs as noone would be, who is acquainted closely enough with the music and personality of G.U.

* * *

Patricia Kopatchinskaja says at her blog in The Guardian:

  1. “Here is her Composition No 2 “Dies irae” (1972/3): You see the wooden box that looks like a coffin.”

    The cube constructed by the composer has nothing to do with coffins. Read more about the cube below.

  2. “Of course the piece was banned in her home country after its first performance.”

    None of the Ustvolskaya's pieces were banned, her music was simply rarely performed.

* * *

Six Sonatas as a cycle

Ustvolskaya composed the Sonatas in different years without the intention to write a cycle. In the time of the Soviet Union, all her works for piano were published in one single book (could it be that this edition reached the West and musicians there perceived the six Sonatas as a cycle?). In Germany, THREE books were published – 12 Preludes, Sonatas 1–3 and Sonatas 4–6. Some performers played and recorded the Sonatas one by one, as the author wanted, others performed all six Sonatas together, and thus, according to the composer's point of view, misunderstood her intention. Ustvolskaya felt strongly about this and said one should not try playing all Sonatas together. Still Frank Denyer did so, as did Ivan Sokolov, and thereafter Markus Hinterhäuser. Ustvolskaya was struck by their complete understanding of her musical ideas. She acknowledged "Apparently, it does not matter how many sonatas are performed; what it is important is who performs them."

* * *

Variations on the theme by Ustvolskaya

The instrumental groups were always carefully thought out by Ustvolskaya and so she objected to any arrangements of her music and to transcriptions for other instruments. In her view, these changes diminished the prayerful power of her compositions, turning them into a kind of entertainment which was unacceptable.

The attitude of the composer towards the experiments with her music can be clearly seen in the letter to Ms. Emigholz in which Ustvolskaya was astonished that Marianne Schroeder found in her Six Sonatas "Bach, rock, jazz, chorales, concerto grosso, neo-classicism, improvisation" – all this had nothing to do with her music, and simply demonstrated the contents the consciousness of of the performer. If the author was so demanding with regard to the performance of her works, it is clear that any "variations on a theme by Ustvolskaya" are out of the question.

Sikorski Music Publishers, which represents the interests of Galina Ustvolskaya, ensures that no experiments with her music are published or performed in public.

* * *

Blunders in the score of Concerto

The score of Concerto for piano published by Sikorski Music Publishers contains two gross blunders on page 44 (bar 220) and on page 45 (bar 222). The same blunders existed in the Soviet Union edition of the Concerto. Galina Ustvolskaya hoped that performers would understand that the piano's tonic motion correspond to the orchestra's tonic chord, but this, somehow, has been ignored and the orchestra imposes its tonic chord upon, relatively speaking, the piano's dominant motion. 

* * *

The use of the music of Ustvolskaya in different forms of stage performance

Galina Ustvolskaya's attitude to the use of her music in musical theater, contemporary dance and other forms of stage performance was always clear: she did not like that and was always against it. "It's not for that that I suffered" – she used to say. She considered a church or a temple to be the ideal space for her music. In her opinion, a secular environment had the opposite effect of her intentions, and diminished the prayerful spirit of her music with which the performer and the listener should ideally be saturated. There was a case when the representatives of the Hamburg State Opera Ballet came to her home to ask for permission to use her Compositions in a ballet. Ustvolskaya refused their proposal.
In 2012 a dance-concerto called Shirokuro commenced a tour around the world. Ustvolskaya's Sonatas Nos. 5 and 6 were the driving force of this performance. The creators did not bother to contact Ustvolskaya's heir for the permission to use her music in their production. In 2013 the heir protested over such exploitation of Ustvolskaya's music and, consequently, Sikorski Music Publishers stated that in the future no licenses for stage performances of her music would be issued.

* * *

Zodiac Trio CD (Blue Griffin), text by Riko Higuma

“...she only left Russia once in her life....”.

In fact, she left Russia six times in order to attend festivals of her music (1995, 1996, 2005 – Amsterdam, 1998 – Vienna, 1999 – Bern, 2004 – Båstad).

* * *

Galina Ustvolskaya CD (Musica non grata), text by J. and M. Berridge

  1. “...and then pursued a course of composition study under Shostakovich (till 1947), becoming his assistant.”

    In fact, she never did become his assistant.

  2. “Her teacher defended his pupil against repeated attacks, till the Party stripped him of his own teaching posts in 1948.”

    The attacks most likely had been linked to her discipline. She liked to attend only composition lessons. Shostakovich never defended her, even on the street. At one point, Ustvolskaya was about to be excluded from the Conservatory when, at the Academic Council, she was defended by one person who even took responsibility for her informal attitude. That was Maximilian Oseevich Steinberg. Shostakovich, during discussion of this issue, went out into the corridor to smoke, and for this Steinberg was very upset with him.

* * *

Concerto CD (Dutton Vocalion), text by Ingrid Jacoby

  1. “She did pay hommage by utilizing a theme of Shostakovich's in her Clarinet Trio, written in 1949.”

    Exactly the opposite is true. He employed the second theme of the Finale of her Trio throughout the Fifth String Quartet and in his Michelangelo Suite (no. 9).

  2. “He, in turn, lent many of his original manuscripts to her former pupil (and later, assistant)....”

    In fact, she never did become his assistant.

The musicians on this recording used the Soviet Union score published in 1967, which contains a number of editorial mistakes.

* * *

Piano Sonatas CD (Megadisc), text by Frans C. Lemaire

  1. “She started her musical studies at the Professional School of Music in Leningrad in 1937 and continued them at the Conservatory in 1939, but they were interrupted by the war.”

    From 1927 to 1937 she studied at the Leningrad Capella which was a professional school of music, and from 1937 to 1939 she was at the Musical College N. A. Rimsky-Korsakov.

  2. “They were, in fact, soon published by the state publishers Sovietskii Kompositor.”

    They were also published by the state publishers Muzyka.

  3. “She also wrote symphonic poems like The Light of The Steppe (1958) and The Hero’s Achievement (1958). She even wrote some vocal pages (Stenka Razins dream, 1948) and choral pieces (Hello Youth in 1950, Dawn on The Homeland in 1952, The Man From The High Mountain in 1952, Song of Praise in 1961). Except for her Piano Concerto, all pieces mentioned above have disappeared, and some have been repudiated, as much for their subjects as for their musical language.”

    After several years' deliberation The Lights in the Steppe retitled "Poem No. 1" and The Hero's Exploit retitled "Poem No. 2", together with The Dream of Stepan Razin (not Stenka Razins dream) and Sport Suite retitled "Suite" were included into the author's Catalogue. Galina Ustvolskaya's attitude towards these works is an indication of the great demands she made of herself. Their style shows too that she had it within her to write another, more accessible, style of music with greater potential to bring her mass popularity. She chose the other way, consciously and uncompromisingly.

  4. “...the Prelude for piano of 1953...”

    12 Preludes.

  5. “...a so-called “Author’s Concert” in april 1991, when the pianist Oleg Malov organized it in the small concert hall of the Philharmonic Orchestra.”

    The small concert hall of the Leningrad Philharmonic.

  6. “...just like the 3rd Sonata dedicated to Oleg Malov.”

    Ustvolskaya withdrew her dedication in 1995.

* * *

The cube of Ustvolskaya

In some concerts of the music of Ustvolskaya (e.g. Marino Formenti (2009), Reinbert De Leeuw (2011), Patricia Kopatchinskaja (2017–2021), Ensemble Modern (2019) and others) during the performance of the Second Composition was used a percussion instrument described by LA Times as "a long, wooden, coffin-sized crate whacked upon by with nasty-looking beaters".

Galina Ustvolskaya never actually asked for the use in these works of any wooden "crate", and never anything "coffin-sized" as it was described by journalists. She designed a percussion instrument of a specific form with a very specific sound: a cube (43 cm x 43 cm) made of the 2 cm thick chipboards which is struck with two mallets. The cube is completely closed. The leather strap was attached to it for the first time when it travelled outside of Russia, namely to Amsterdam.

Marian Lee wrote in her thesis (2002): "According to Oleg Malov, who premiered many of Ustvolskaya’s works, 'the wooden cube was originally supposed to be an actual coffin, but Ustvolskaya was not satisfied with the quality of the sound and had a wooden cube built instead'".
This catchy image was immediately used by at least four other musicologists, who based their research on this "fact". The Guardian went as far as this: "wooden cube, a coffin-like instrument". Can you really imagine a coffin shaped like a cube? What kind of entity could find the eternal peace in it? The truth is very simple: the cube is not "a coffin". During Ustvolskaya's life, one musicologist compared the cube with a coffin; at first she laughed, then became exasperated: "I did not write music for coffins!". She just needed the specific sound for her Composition No 2. In 2015 Oleg Malov confirmed that he was misinterpreted: "There were no talks about a coffin. That was my speculation. An imaginative one. Based on the composition's title [Dies irae]."
Marian Lee commented: "Malov may say now (15 years later) that I misunderstood what he meant, which is possible since I'm not a native Russian speaker, but if I wrote it in my research, it meant that at the time, that is what I heard and understood from him. If the idea of the coffin was his own elaborate imagination and interpretation, then he obviously didn't make that clear."

By using "a coffin" performers not only distort the composer's original idea regarding the sound, they also change the symbolism of cube into something else.

The history of the creation of this instrument is as follows:
In the courtyard of the music college, where Galina Ivanovna worked there was a carpenter's shop. When Ustvolskaya came to this shop in order to have an instrument built for the Second Composition, she did not know yet the size or the material she wanted. She said that she only knew the sound that it should produce. When the carpenter made one, she came to test it by knocking on it. She could then tell: "No, not that one." Varied sizes and wooden materials were tried, Galina Ivanovna came to knock on each new variant – the sound still was not right. This went on for a long time – the poor master builder, glimpsing Ustvolskaya in the music college yards, on a few occasions tried to escape. Then it turned out that any box made of any kind of wood makes a clear sound which the composer did not like and so they replaced wood with chipboard, and the muffled sound appeared – that was what Ustvolskaya was looking for. The expensive box (the master requested a rather high price for his work) was brought home. 

Currently, the author's original copy of the instrument – the only one she deemed sonically correct – is located in Ustvolskaya's archive in Moscow. This cube was used in all concerts in Leningrad, where the Second Composition and the Fifth Symphony were performed.

Why respected Dutch and American (and possibly other) musicians decided to use a "coffin-sized" wooden instrument with a ringing sound (not to mention those who simply use a standard percussion instrument as was the case, for example, in Warsaw in 2001 or in Bari in 2012 where cajon was used) instead of the chipboard cube that measured 43 cm by 43 cm as described in the scores – we do not know.

In Leningrad the original cube was always used in the performances of Composition No 2 and Symphony No 5, it was hit with the tubular bells hammers.

Here is the sound of the original cube (p, mf, f) played by Konstantin Bagrenin in July 2013 in the Ustvolskaya's flat (recorded with Zoom H4n Pro). For this recording a wooden mallet covered with felt was used.

* * *

General opinion: “Shostakovich’s student Galina Ustvolskaya.”

See the Shostakovich section for the commentary.

* * *

General opinion: “Apart from a Duet for violin and piano (1964), she wrote nothing else during the 1960s”. The heir has another opinion:

Galina Ivanovna was constantly composing something. It's also true that not everything she composed was something she found necessary to include in her Ñatalogue. I would say: Ustvolskaya composed a great deal in the 1960s. But the only work she considered worthy to be included in a list of her primary works was Duet. I tore up many scores in 1965 on her insistence. Some of them could have been written in the 1960s. Many scores are now in the Archive of Cinematography. Some of these could also have been written in the 60s. In addition, when she learned that the Leningrad archive of music and film scores had many of her manuscripts, she asked me to buy them and to destroy them. Maybe the last few years of the 60s were spent on contemplating and rethinking the powerful trilogy of Compositions. I should also add that Galina Ivanovna destroyed many of her works herself. Maybe some of these were composed in the 60s as well. She was going to he music college 2–3 times a week and all the rest of the time she worked at home. I sometimes saw the results of her work, torn into many pieces in a trash bin. I did not ask her what those were because I was doing the same thing as a student. In those years she told me once that some scores were hidden under the cover of the piano in her mother's house. She demanded that I should go to her mother's place and destroy them. I refused categorically and some time later I asked her about these works. She answered that the scores had been destroyed. Which scores, and how many, she refused to tell, pointing to her heart and saying: THEY ARE HERE. Ustvolskaya was still composing even when seriously ill during the last years of her life, despite the absence of actual manuscripts. To the outside world, it seemed she had gone silent in the 60s and after 1990 — but it was a simple ignorance of the facts that gave rise to this wrong impression.

* * *

International Symposium “Galina Ustvolskaya: New Perspectives”
27.05.2011, Amsterdam

Elena Nalimova “Bringing Ustvolskaya's chamber music to the next generation: performance, pedagogy and presentation” (video)

  1. “Alesha Nikolaev was one of Ustvolskaya's most gifted students” [04:20]

    None of her students – neither Tishchenko, nor Banevich, nor Nikolayev – did Ustvolskaya ever single out for special praise and she certainly did not consider any of them as “the most gifted”. According to Ustvolskaya, she taught «only to subsist on it». In conversations with me she referred to all her students as “raw material for crafting”, and believed that “they were educated at the Conservatory”.

  2. “During the late 1980s, Ustvolskaya suddenly changed her preference from St. Petersburg-born pianist Oleg Malov to Reinbert de Leeuw of Amsterdam. Ustvolskaya praised Malov on different occasions and recommended his participation in performances of her works, for some of which we have some evidence.” [08:00]

    Ustvolskaya did not praise Malov, but rather thanked him many times for the performance of her music. And she did not «suddenly change her preference» for Reinbert, but rather suddenly heard that this musician, without asking a single question of the author, played her music as she heard it, unlike Malov, whom Galina Ivanovna had to teach to play her music. It was de Leeuw she REALLY praised.

  3. “Stravinsky, whom Ustvolskaya admittedly admired greatly...” [21:45]

    Ustvolskaya admired only the finale of his “The Rite of Spring” [hear it now] as well as the Finale of Tchaikovsky’s “Sixth Symphony”.

Final discussion (video)

  1. Rachel Jeremiah-Foulds: “I think something having to do with her health is also present, because it’s not just a sort of agitation in the hand-writing as she gets older, there’s certainly a shaking as well. So there’s an element of health: it does impact on her hand-writing.” [12:10]

    The shake or tremor began after 1995, so Ustvolskaya finished her last work (1990) with her natural handwriting, which of course changed throughout her life.

  2. Elmer Schönberger: “By the way, it's rather amazing that the name of Shostakovich has hardly been mentioned today because you cannot read any article or review on Ustvolskaya [without it also being] about Shostakovich. I hoped that one of our Russian friends would have maybe more to say about it, because we in the West are dependent on second-hand information, so to say. We have no access to the sources. I would like to know for instance: I read somewhere that Shostakovich was defending his pupil Ustvolskaya more than once in the Composer's Union against attacks of so-called formalism and I think this is also in the brochure which is published by Sikorski and which is written by Victor Suslin, but I remember in the late years – in the middle of 90s, I think – Ustvolskaya came to Holland and was interviewed at the time by a Dutch weekly, and Suslin was there as well, and he said: "Well, this is not true at all. Shostakovich hardly did anything for her. Well, maybe once, but not twice. I would like to know if any of you can give any more factual information on this topic.” [15:17]

    It would be better to ask that not of your Russian friends nor of Suslin, who did not live with Ustvolskaya for 40 years, as I did, her widower, who knows the intimate details of her life like no other. Shostakovich did not advocate for Ustvolskaya, neither in the Composers' Union, nor on the street. Never.

  3. Elena Nalimova: “In this letter, he [Suslin] showed me (I have a copy of it in my possession) – it's a description of a conversation between Suslin and Ustvolskaya. Ustvolskaya says that it was not Shostakovich who protected her. Shostakovich did not say a word, but there were two other teachers from the St. Petersburg Conservatory who wrote a petition and because of them she was allowed to continue.” [18:38]

    Ustvolskaya was about to be excluded from the Conservatory when, at the Academic Council, she was defended by one person who even took responsibility for her. That was Maximilian Oseevich Steinberg. Shostakovich, during discussion of this issue, went out into the corridor to smoke, and for this Steinberg was very upset with him.

  4. Elena Nalimova: “As for the early 70s... When I was in St. Petersburg I studied with Oleg Malov for five years. I started these studies in 1993 […], and I know from him...because of all the scores...[with] Usvolskaya's inscription on all of them... I have them... all of them have a dedication to Oleg Malov, “the most wonderful musician”. I'm talking about all the piano Sonatas, I'm talking about the Grand Duet, all the Compositions...” [26:48]

    You say that all the works of Ustvolskaya were dedicated to Malov. Fabulous! We know that she dedicated only the Third Sonata to him and subsequently withdrew this dedication. Why she did it, only I know at this point. Some day, I will show a note about that out from her "Diary", which I kept for many years during Ustvolskaya’s life, and which is signed in her hand. So please do not invent anything for your own convenience. Malov was the first performer of almost all the works of Ustvolskaya, and she was grateful to him for that. She wrote about that and spoke on this in one of the films, but this does not mean that ALL her works were dedicated to him.

See also the Russian version of this section.

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