BORIS SCHWARZ has had an extraordinary career which equipped him to create his uniquely valuable book, Music and Musical Life in Soviet Russia, 1917- 1970. He was born in Russia in 1906, was trained as a violinist by celebrated pedagogues in Berlin and Paris, came to this country in 1936, became concertmaster of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and then a member of Toscanini's NBC Symphony. After retiring as a performer, Schwarz became a scholar, earning a PhD in musicology, undertaking research in various fields, contributing to both learned journals and the popular press. He had visited the Soviet Union in 1930, and returned for longer visits in 1960 and 1962. After serving on the faculty of Queens College for nearly four decades, he is still going strong, serving as music critic in the United States for the Neue Zuercher Zeitung, writing, and lecturing. His book, originally published in 1972, was enormously welcome as an authoritative source of information on its subject, gratefully quoted by concert annotators; a paperback edition circulated for years. Now he has updated it, and the new edition, under the same title but with the years changed to "1917-1981," is not only more comprehensive but downright indispensable to anyone at all interested in the subject.
In his foreword to the new edition, Schwarz lists as "the pivotal events" in the world of Soviet music since publication of his book in its original form "the departure of Mstislav Rostropovich in 1974; the death of Dmitri Shostakovich in 1975; and the defection of his son, Maxim, in 1981." Surely these names and events will register with special sharpness with Washingtonians, for it was to this city that Rostropovich came to establish his new life (a new life not only in the sense of being free in the West, but also in that of concentrating on conducting as parallel to his activity as the most highly regarded cellist of our time), and it was to this city that Rostropovich brought Maxim Shostakovich for his declaration of principles, only days after the latter's defection with his son while on tour in Germany as conductor of the Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra (young Dmitri was on the tour as piano soloist in his grandfather's Second Piano Concerto). And it is this city's orchestra, the National Symphony, that Rostropovich has more or less consecrated to the cause of Shostakovich, in concerts at home and abroad. (The Rostropovich/NSO recording of Shostakovich's Fifth Symphony, in fact, was issued by Deutsche Grammophon at about the same time the new edition of Schwarz's book was published.)
The major addition to the book is its 150-page concluding section, "Developments and Expansions 1970- 81," which is divided into two subsections, "From the Lenin Centennial to the Death of Shostakovich" and "Dissatisfactions, Directives, and Defections." At the end, as an appendix, is a conversation Schwarz had with Maxim Shostakovich in New York in June 1981, about two months after Maxim's arrival in this country. The conversation ends with the conductor's declaration: "My grandchildren will be free . . . I bring the blood of Shostakovich to freedom!"
The brief addendum in the form of a necrology for the years 1971-1982 serves further to point up the need for the new edition. Among the names listed, in addition to Shostakovich's, are those of Aram Khachaturian and his wife the composer Nina Makarova, the violinists David Oistrakh and Leonid Kogan, the pianists Lev Oborin and Yakov Zak, the conductors Kyril Kondrashin, Boris Khaikin, and Nathan Rakhlin, the scholars Lev Ginzburg and Grigori Shneerson, and the jazz musician Alexander Tsfasman.
Tsfasman, of course, figures prominently in S. Frederick Starr's book on a different aspect of Soviet musical life in the same period covered by Schwarz. Starr's Red and Hot carries the subtitle "The Fate of Jazz in the Soviet Union 1917-1980"; it is an illuminating, entertaining, and occasionally chilling chronicle of vacillating official attitudes, of various individual and official experiments, and of some collateral activities (such as the ill-conceived project to produce a movie called Red and Black, dealing with the plight of Negroes in capitalist America, a project finally abandoned in 1933 when the "actors" imported from the U.S.A. failed to conform to the sought-after stereotype and President Roosevelt announced our diplomatic recognition of the U.S.S.R.).
While Starr cites the tours of American jazzmen early on in the post-Revolutionary years (Sam Wooding's "Chocolate Kiddies" and Benny Peyton's "Jazz Kings" were among the first, in the mid-1920s) and reports on the mission of the Leningrad pianist Leopold Teplitsky to study jazz in Philadelphia in 1926, he points out that the first jazz performances in the Soviet Union were given by native musicians rather than practitioners from the West.
By the '30s, jazz had securely taken hold. Tsfasman, Alexander Varlamov, Leonid Utesov, and others were among the prominent organizers and leaders of jazz ensembles. Estonia seemed especially rich in jazz activity. Vera Dneprova, who gained her familiarity with it as mistress of a young U.S. diplomat in 1934 (at which time George Kennan had his own amateur group, the Kremlin Owls, playing for the U.S. embassy staff and other foreigners serving in Moscow), organized an eight- woman "Ladies' Jazz Orchestra" the following year, and impressed Americans as well as Russians.
In 1938 the government establisheddthe State Jazz Orchestra of the U.S.S.R., which--even though it included members of the pioneering Tsfasman's group--proved to be not exactly a jazz combo, but a 43-piece ensemble conducted by the classically trained Victor Knushevitsky (who was almost totally unfamiliar with jazz, but took the post after Tsfasman turned it down), with a repertory inclining more toward what we might call "salon music" than toward jazz. Juri Jelagin, the State Jazz Orchestra's concertmaster, is another Soviet musical figure familiar now in Washington, but no longer as a musician. After playing several years in the Houston Symphony, Jelagin is here now as editor of the magazine Dialogues U.S.A. He is himself the author of a book on cultural life in Russia, Taming of the Arts, from which Starr quotes in Red and Hot.
Eddie Rosner, a trumpeter from Berlin who had taken part in a jam session with Louis Armstrong in Italy in 1934 (they signed photographs for each other "To the white Louis Armstrong" and "To the black Eddie Rosner"), arrived in the Soviet Union from Poland in 1939 to become the country's most prominent jazzman for a heady seven years. "Here, at last," says Starr, "was the genuine article, as musician and as symbol. Driven to the Soviet Union out of necessity and eventually silenced by an anxious Soviet government, he spent seven years in a kind of sustained embrace with the Soviet listening public. With Rosner, swing music in the USSR reached its apogee. . . . It is doubtful that any jazz musician on earth has ever been recompensed more generously . . . than Eddie Rosner in the Soviet Union during wartime." But Rosner, like Rostropovich, "is a nonperson in the Soviet Union today. His name, known to every Soviet jazz musician and older fan, is scarcely mentioned in books and magazines."
Starr, whose intriguing career has included years as a professional jazz performer as well as a term as secretary of the Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies at the Wilson Center in Washington, is the new president of Oberlin College. There are some untidinesses in his language which may put some readers off; a publisher as respected as Oxford University Press ought to have had an editor to smooth them out. There is an occasional inaccuracy, too, such as the reference to "Tahiti Trot" as an "adaptation of Vincent Youmans' 'Begin the Beguine,' 1926. " ("Begin the Beguine" was written by Cole Porter in 1935; "Tahiti Trot" was the Russians' name for Youmans' "Tea for Two," used also by Shostakovich in his 1927 arrangement of the piece.) But there is much here to interest, and indeed to fascinate, the general reader as well as the confirmed jazz buff.