The Red Baton, Scenes from Musical Life in Soviet Russia

With Guennadi Rojdestvenski

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Program notes

Key witnesses shed light on an essential part of the history of music.

"In the Soviet Union, from 1917 to 1990, in an extremely difficult context, one of terror even, there developed one of the most intense and richest musical environments of the 20th century…," writes Bruno Monsaingeon. A fascinating mystery that Monsaingeon attempts to elucidate in his film.

This essential period of music history is recounted through conductor Guennadi Rojdestvenski, the last remaining representative of these fabulous performers of the Soviet era (he was born in 1931). He is full of humour and it is a treat to watch him explain why there are two page-295's in the biography of Prokofiev published in 1957 and to hear him talk about Tikhon Khrenikov, the terrifying secretary general of the Union of Composers who was in office for forty years…

Other witnesses include the conductor Rudolf Barshai "One day, I said to myself, enough is enough, and I decided to leave", the pianist Viktoria Postnikova: "Even seated in the plane, they could come and fetch you and say, Out!" and the central figure of composer, Dimitri Shostakovich: "If I look back, I only see ashes and bodies."

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